European leaders threatened to restrict international air transportation within Belarus, but may restrict land transportation in the country after a Ryanair plane was forced to land in an incident that Western countries condemned as “national piracy.”
EU leaders strongly condemned Belarus. In the incident on Sunday, a Belarusian military plane intercepted a flight between Greece and Lithuania and forced it to land in Minsk. A dissident journalist was later arrested.
Countries are calling for the release of 26-year-old Roman Protashevich. The social media wall that was displaced last year was one of the last independent platforms for news in the country after the massive oppression of dissidents last year.
The European Commission (EC) invited the Belarusian ambassador for talks on Monday.
The European Community said: “Ambassador Alexander Mikhnevic has been informed that EU institutions and coercive members strongly condemn the actions of the Belarusian authorities that endanger the safety of passengers and crew.”
A statement calling for Protasevich’s release added: “The unprecedented action of the Belarusian authorities is another obvious attempt to silence the voices of all opposition parties in the country.”
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, accused Minsk of hijacking a passenger plane. Washington also condemned the “shocking behavior.” European Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell (Josep Borrell) demanded the release of the arrested opposition journalist Roman Protasiewicz and called for an investigation into whether it violated international air traffic rules.
The outrage over the events in Belarus is likely to spread to EU leaders discussing how to deal with relations with Moscow at long-held summit meetings, and Lukashenko has always been like this.
The EU summit on Monday night will discuss strengthening sanctions on Minsk and possibly restricting land transport links between Belarus and the 27 EU member states.
The EU is also considering boycotting Belarusian airspace and banning Belavia, the national airline of Belarus, from taking off from EU airports.
European justice commissioner Dean Reindes said on Monday that the group should impose more sanctions on Belarus to put pressure on Minsk and target members of the regime responsible for the forced landing of Ryanair there.
Reins said that a debate on air traffic restrictions may take place, but it remains to be seen whether the EU will choose a coordinated approach for all 27 member states or whether member states can impose their own restrictions at the national level.
“But first, putting pressure on the person responsible for this behavior is the best response to it,” Reyndes said. “And, I’m sure, it is very important to prove that there is a common practice internationally.”
Croatian Prime Minister Andrei Plenkovic announced on Monday after a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel that the two condemned the forcible landing of a Ryanair civil plane in Belarus and called for an international investigation.
The Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said on Monday that the EU should impose more sanctions on Belarus and that the action against Minsk should be “swift and intense”.