The United States announced new sanctions Monday on Belarus in a coordinated effort with Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union after a civilian jet was forced to land last month while it was transporting a journalist critical of the current regime.
In a joint statement, the governments said:
We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenka regime’s continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law.
Today, we have taken coordinated sanctions action in response to the May 23rd forced landing of a commercial Ryanair flight between two EU member states and the politically motivated arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega, as well as to the continuing attack on human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments.
We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people. We are disappointed the regime has opted to walk away from its human rights obligations, adherence to democratic principles, and engagement with the international community. We are further united in our call for the Lukashenka regime to cooperate fully with international investigations into the events of May 23rd; immediately release all political prisoners; implement all the recommendations of the independent expert mission under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism; and, enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue between the authorities and representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society, facilitated by the OSCE.
The Associated Press reported, “[a]mong their actions Monday, the ministers imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 78 Belarus officials and froze the assets of 8 ‘entities,’ which are usually companies, banks, or associations. It means that a total of 166 people and 15 entities are now under EU restrictive measures.”
“Among those targeted by the United States were close Lukashenko associates, those accused of helping to violently suppress peaceful protests since last year and others alleged to have orchestrated fraud during the elections,” the outlet noted.
As The Daily Wire reported last month, “a Ryanair commercial aircraft was suddenly diverted and forced to land as it began its descent into Vilnius, Lithuania. The passengers, having been given no explanation from the pilot or crew, were left panicked and terrified as the plane changed course.”
According to the BBC, flight “FR4978 was bound for Lithuania from Greece when it was forced to switch direction for the Belarusian capital Minsk on Sunday so the authorities there could arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, 26.”
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president, ordered the fighter to be scrambled. “Authorities there then arrested a prominent journalist and opposition activist, before allowing the plane to continue its journey,” the Journal reported. “The incident has sparked an international outcry and raised questions over the legality of the plane’s grounding and the ramifications for the airline industry.”
As later reported by The Daily Wire, European Union leaders agreed to impose sanctions against Belarus after the incident occurred.
A video of the detained journalist has since been released that supporters believe was filmed under duress. In it, he spoke positively about his treatment by Interior Ministry employees and said that he is cooperating with the investigation. He also confessed to organizing mass riots.
The recent event depicted the pattern of assault on free speech in Belarus. Earlier this year, as reported by The Daily Wire, Belarusian authorities raided the homes and offices of activists and journalists.
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