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De Croo calls to ban Belarus airline from landing in the EU

Credit: Alexander De Croo's cabinet.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called for EU heads of state and government to impose sanctions on Belarus ahead of an EU summit meeting in Brussels on Monday evening.

Belarus hijacked an airliner bound for Minsk on Sunday in order to arrest one of its passengers, young opposition journalist Roman Protassevitch, whose immediate release Belgium is also calling for.

De Croo suggested banning Belavia Belarusian Airlines from operating in the EU.

“We must consider sanctions, including banning Belavia from landing at EU airports,” the head of the Belgian government tweeted late on Sunday evening. Belavia is the national airline of Belarus and offers flights to most European capitals.

“The landing of Ryanair flight FR4978 forced by Belarus is unacceptable. The European Council must send a clear and unambiguous message. Roman Protassevich must be released immediately,” De Croo stated.

The European Council meeting will take place at 7:00 PM on Monday.

The Ryanair plane was on a flight from Greece to Lithuania when Belarus sent a fighter jet to intercept it.

The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, announced on 10 May that the EU was preparing new sanctions against Belarus and hoped to adopt them “in the coming weeks” – sanctions for which the unanimity of member states is required.

The European Union decided at the end of February to extend until 28 February 2022 the sanctions already imposed on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and members of his regime involved in the repression of the 9 August 2020 presidential election protest.

Eighty-eight individuals, including Lukashenko, along with seven entities were sanctioned with an EU travel ban and asset freeze.

The EU refused to recognise the results of the presidential election, which it deemed “rigged.” The historically large protests that followed were harshly repressed.

Despite European and American sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko and senior members of his government, the Belarusian president, backed by Moscow, has shown no serious signs of compromise in the face of the protest movement.

The Brussels Times