After an airplane crash landed: Belarus threatens the EU | Free press


Brussels / Minsk (dpa) – After the emergency landing of a passenger plane in Minsk, Belarus is threatening with sanctions against the EU. “We will not be silent and kneel down,” ruler Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday in parliament in the capital Minsk, state television reported.

However, the 66-year-old left open exactly which punitive measures should be taken. According to diplomats, the EU wants to hit the potash industry, which is important for the acquisition of foreign exchange in Belarus, with the planned new punitive measures. The opposition again called for a crackdown on the authoritarian leaders in Minsk by Western countries.

Lukashenko made his first statement after the emergency landing on Sunday, while defending the action. “I acted lawfully in protecting people – under all international rules,” he said. Authorities had used Sunday’s landing to arrest government critic Roman Protassewitsch at the airport. Lukashenko described the blogger as a “terrorist”. The 26-year-old and his helpers had planned a “bloody uprising” in Belarus, the ruler claimed.

The authorities of the authoritarian republic have landed the plane of the Irish airline Ryanair on its way from Greece to Lithuania with a MiG-29 jet fighter – reportedly because of a bomb threat. That later turned out to be a false alarm. There were more than 100 people on board, including Protassevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega. Both were arrested.

Because of the action, the EU has already imposed new sanctions against the power apparatus in Belarus. This also includes a flight ban for airlines in the former Soviet Republic. Lukashenko criticized this: “You have crossed several red lines.” According to Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko, Belarus will act. “These measures will be quite painful for those countries that have taken an openly hostile stance.” These include restrictions on transit, he said, without giving any details.

Ideally, the EU wants its planned sanctions against selected industries to take effect before the summer. However, different interests of the EU states can also cause delays. It is still unclear whether the petroleum industry will also be targeted. According to diplomats, it is also unclear when EU airspace will be completely closed to Belarusian airlines as planned. The state airline Belavia flew to Frankfurt am Main and Rome on Wednesday, according to a display at Minsk airport.

The topic still requires discussions among EU countries, he said. However, individual member states have already canceled their national air transport agreements with Belarus. In addition, several airlines no longer want to fly over the ex-Soviet republic.

NATO states supported the new sanctions imposed on the country. “NATO allies are calling on Belarus to respect basic human rights and freedoms and to respect the rules-based international order,” said a statement by the North Atlantic Council. It is made up of representatives from all 30 member states and is the primary political decision-making body of the Western Military Alliance.

The North Atlantic Council condemned Protassevich’s imprisonment as an affront to the principles of freedom of the press and the right to political disagreement. The blogger and his partner must be released immediately and unconditionally.

Against this, the Kremlin once again defended its Allied neighbor. There is no reason to doubt the version being circulated by Minsk, Interfax spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

According to diplomatic circles, several countries wanted to raise the issue in the UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday. Ireland, Estonia and France have spoken out in favor of addressing the conflict behind closed doors on the sidelines of the officially scheduled meetings on Syria and Mali, it said. A joint statement from the committee was not expected.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who stood against Lukashenko in presidential elections in August last year and is now in exile, called on the EU to adopt a new package of sanctions. “I urge the European Parliament to ensure that the response from the international community is not limited to the Ryanair flight incident,” she wrote on her news channel on Telegram.

The EU wants to decide on further punitive measures against people, companies and organizations that have a direct share in the responsibility for the crash landing of the Ryanair plane and the repression of the opposition in the country. Several dozen new entries are planned on the EU sanctions list, it said Wednesday. The necessary decision for this could be taken at the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs on June 21. The EU had already imposed punitive measures against Minsk in the past.