EU suspends flights over Belarus
Europe introduces new sanctions against Belarus
The Belarus airspace may soon become empty as the European Union urged European airlines to avoid flying over the country. On top of that, Belarusian airlines will be banned from flying over Europe as part of the West’s initial reaction to the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk airport and the subsequent arrest of one of the passengers, journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich.
“Piracy” is how experts describe the actions of Lukashenka’s regime. New sanctions against him are being prepared by the EU and the United States. However, some opponents of the authorities in Belarus are critical of European retaliatory measures.
Several major airlines have already announced that they refusing to fly over the territory of Belarus, including Finnair, Singapore Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, and Air France. Starting from midnight of May 26, Ukraine will also suspend flights to Belarus.
On May 24, the EU summit decided to ban Belarusian airlines from flights to EU airports and flights over the territory of the European Union. However, the decision did not take effect immediately. As Euroradio reports, the EU Council should take the necessary measures, while the European Union leaders have already urged European air carriers to avoid flying over Belarus.
The final statement also calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate the incident with the Ryanair passenger plane flying from Greece to Lithuania, which was forced to land in Belarus on May 23.
It was also decided to speed up the introduction of sanctions against individuals and companies in Belarus.
The EU demands the immediate release of Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, who was also detained.
US President Joe Biden supported the EU’s position of introducing targeted economic sanctions against Belarus.
“I have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations”, President Biden’s official statement reads.
The US President called the forced diversion of a civilian plane that flew between the two EU member states and the arrest of Protasevich “a direct violation of international norms”.
“This outrageous incident and the video, which Mr. Pratasevich appears to have filmed under duress, is a shameful attack on both political dissent and press freedom”, Biden said.
“Video recognition” of Protasevich
The first video depicting detained Roman Protasevich appeared on May 24 on one of the pro-government Telegram channels. On it, the Protasevcih denied having any health problems and said that he was treated “as correctly as possible and according to the law”.
“Now I continue to cooperate with the investigation and confess to organizing mass riots in the city of Minsk”, he says.
The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta notes that Protasevich “keeps himself tense, blinking frequently throughout the video. Strange marks are visible on his face”.
Piracy beyond what we have witnessed during the Cold War
The official version of the Belarusian authorities claiming that they have allegedly received a letter signed by “soldiers of Hamas” (the Palestinian armed group opposing Israel) notifying them that the plane was mined, was immediately refuted by Hamas itself:
“These are not our methods at all”, said Fawzi Barhum, a spokesman of the organization. “Some suspicious parties are doing this to demonize Hamas and thwart world sympathy for the Palestinian people and their legitimate resistance”.
Russian aviation expert Vadim Lukashevich sees no difference between the actions of the Belarusian authorities and the Somali pirates.
“There, under the threat of the use of weapons, the ship is stopped in order to seize money, valuables and hostages. Here the plane is forced to land, and the “pirates” climb aboard to remove a man from it. In principle, the actions are the same. You know, I cannot remember anything similar to such a practice. This, in my opinion, is the first such case in history”, Lukashevich said in an interview with Novaya Gazeta.
He fears that the Russian authorities may also adopt such a method of capturing political opponents:
“Russia is unlikely to adopt something good, but it can definitely adopt something like that. Even during the Cold War, during the tough confrontation between the intelligence services, they did not do that. But now they are hounding a person in Salisbury – strangers are dying. To poison Litvinenko, they carry polonium in an airplane – and this airplane shows traces of it for another six months”.
What are the possible implications of flight suspension?
At the same time, Belarusian journalist and editor-in-chief of the independent Euroradio Pavel Sverdlov believes the ban on flights of the Belarusian company Belavia to Europe a “bad idea”.
“Yes, this is a decisive step that demonstrates the seriousness of the intentions of European politicians. Yes, this will lead to financial losses for the Belarusian air carrier. But.
It will also deprive the citizens of Belarus of the opportunity to travel and see the world and cut off the escape routes for those who actually need them. Isn’t that what the Belarusian authorities want – to have Belarusians sit at home as much as possible and only learn about life in other countries from TV?”, Sverdlov writes.
In his opinion, an adequate response to the incident would be the refusal of European airlines to operate flights through Belarus instead of introducing another set of restrictions on the travel of citizens of Belarus.
In this situation, the journalist notes, the ban on Belavia’s flights to Europe means that the citizens of Belarus will be cut off from the West. They will only have the East, where planes and trains will continue to travel.