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Flight hijacked by Minsk: Washington confirms sanctions against Belarus

The American government announced, Friday, May 28, punitive measures against Belarus, targeting the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko, after the hijacking, on May 23, of a flight from Athens to Vilnius by a plane of the army of the Belarusian air in order to arrest an opposition journalist and his Russian companion.

Washington has confirmed the entry into force, on June 3, of economic sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises, re-imposed in April following the crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki called for "a credible international investigation" into this rout, also condemned by the European Union (EU). These events are "a direct affront to international standards, " said Ms. Psaki.

Read also The Belarus of Alexander Lukashenko, an increasingly isolated regime that tracks its adversaries

The United States is preparing with the EU "a list of targeted sanctions against key members of the Lukashenko regime associated with current human rights violations and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 elections and the events of May 23, ” continued the spokesperson.

Washington advises against visiting the country

The US Treasury Department is also working on the development of sanctions against "elements of the Lukashenko regime and its support network." The United States has also recommended that its citizens avoid traveling to Belarus, and "to use extreme caution ” in case they consider taking a plane over the country.

The EU is for its part studying the possibility of sanctions that could target potash exports and the transit of Russian gas, two important sources of income for Belarus, European foreign minister Josep Borrell said Thursday. Brussels has asked airlines to bypass the country.

Minsk maintains that the plane was diverted because of a bomb threat and that the arrest of Roman Protassevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega, was a matter of chance. With the steadfast support of Belarus, Moscow says it believes in the explanations provided by Minsk. 

On Friday, in a clear demonstration of support for the regime, Russian President Vladimir Putin received Mr. Lukashenko in the seaside town of Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea.

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