White House to Slap Sanctions on Belarus over Passenger Plane Interception

The Biden administration announced Friday night it will reimpose sanctions on Belarus following May 23 forced take down of a civilian airliner to arrest a journalist on board, calling it a direct affront to international norms, Politico writes.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that Belarus’s forced diversion of a commercial Ryanair flight under false pretenses and the subsequent removal and arrest of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich, are a direct affront to international norms amid an escalating wave of repression by the Lukashenka regime against the aspirations of the people of Belarus for democracy and human rights.

Belarus authorities forced down a Ryanair flight, using fighter jets and faking a bomb threat on Sunday, in order to arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Russian activist Sofia Sapega, amid mass arrests and the departure of some opposition leaders from the country due to swelling opposition in recent months to dictatorial rule of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka.

Protasevich (26) who became a political activist as a teenager, turned himself a key figure among opposition activists, organizing demonstrations via the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

A Level 4 Do Not Travel Warning was issued by the Department of State to U.S. citizens, urging them to not travel to Belarus while U.S. passenger carriers were warned by the FAA warned to exercise extreme caution when flying in Belarusian airspace. 

Sanctions will also be re-imposed against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises while the White House is coordinating with the EU and other allies to develop targeted sanctions against Lukashenka and representatives of his regime connected with the abuses of human rights and corruption, 2020 election falsification as well as May 23 events.

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