An emergency landing of a plane in Minsk: European Union imposes sanctions

The latest developments

The maneuver of the Belarusian dictator Lukashenko is causing international outrage. The United States has strongly condemned his regime. The European Union imposes the first sanctions.

Belarusian opposition activist and blogger Roman Protaswich, who was kidnapped from a plane on Sunday, at a demonstration in Minsk in 2012.


The latest developments

  • After the forced landing of a passenger plane in Minsk, European Union countries imposed new sanctions on the former Soviet Republic of Belarus. As the spokesman for the President of the European Union Council Charles Michel announced on the evening of Monday, May 24, after consultations with heads of state and government in Brussels, Belarusian airlines will no longer be allowed to use European Union airspace and will no longer be allowed to take off from airports in the European Union and allowed to land. In addition, there should be additional targeted economic sanctions and an expanded list of people and companies for whom the asset freeze and the entry ban to the European Union apply.
  • Lufthansa is avoiding Belarusian airspace for now. On the evening of Monday, May 24, the airline announced, “Due to the current dynamic situation, we are suspending the operation in Belarusian airspace for the time being.” The next flight between Frankfurt and Minsk is scheduled for Wednesday, May 26. A spokeswoman said this had yet to be determined. On Monday – one day after the emergency landing of a passenger plane – a Lufthansa plane was detained and searched in Minsk. The reason for this is a “safety notice” from the local authorities. Lufthansa announced that the passengers will again undergo a security check. It remains unclear if there was a direct link to the forced landing of Ryanair’s flight yesterday.
  • Belarus expelled all its embassy staff from neighboring Latvia on Monday, May 24.N. Previously, the official flags of Belarus were exchanged for the white, red and white variant of the Belarusian opposition to the World Ice Hockey Championship in the Latvian capital, Riga. According to the Belta government agency, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Macki spoke of “an act of provocation” and an act of “sabotage of the state.” The Latvian ambassador had to leave the country within 24 hours. Other employees were given 48 hours. An employee was allowed to stay in the country for the embassy technical service. Latvia responded immediately and expelled all Belarusian embassy staff. This will apply until the normalization of relations between the two countries.
  • On Monday, May 24, Lithuania imposed a ban on Belarusian airspace. Planes flying into Lithuania or taking off from the Baltic states of the European Union and NATO are no longer permitted to fly over neighboring Belarus. The ban goes into effect on May 25 at midnight. According to the State Chancellery in Vilnius, this affects up to 26 flights per day to and from Lithuania.
  • According to Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, KGB agents were also on board. “It appears that the authorities’ intention is to remove a journalist and his traveling companion (from the plane),” the head of the Irish low-cost airline told Irish radio station Newstock on Monday. “We suspect that some KGB agents were disposed of at the airport (in Minsk),” he added. O’Leary said it was “a case of state-sponsored kidnapping, (…) state-sponsored piracy.”
  • A total of five passengers on the Ryanair flight did not arrive at the destination airport in Vilnius. Reuters news agency wrote on Monday, May 24th. Lithuania Police Chief Rolandas Keskis did not want to comment on the identity of the people who remained in Minsk. A Belarusian University in Lithuania announced that one of its students who was on the plane with Protasevic had also been arrested in Minsk.

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