Following the forced landing of a passenger airplane and the detention of a journalist on board, the Biden administration said on Friday that it is preparing a list of targeted sanctions on senior officials of the Belarusian government.
According to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, the US is also suspending a 2019 deal between Washington and Minsk that enabled carriers from each nation to access the airspace of the other, as well as taking additional moves against President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.
In a statement, she called on Lukashenko to allow a credible international investigation into the events of May 23, when the Ryanair passenger jet flying from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in Minsk.
Belarusian authorities scrambled a fighter jet and flagged what turned out to be a false bomb alert to force the plane to land, then detained an opposition journalist who was on board, drawing condemnation from Europe and the United States.
Psaki said the US was working with the EU and other partners to compile a list of targeted penalties on senior officials of Lukashenko’s regime “associated with ongoing abuses of human rights and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 election, and the events of May 23”
Last year, the US sanctioned eight Belarus officials in connection with an August 2020 election that the West claimed was manipulated.
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that sanctions against Belarus were “in play”, without giving details.
The Treasury Department will create an executive order for Biden to sign, granting increased powers to impose sanctions on components of Lukashenko’s administration, and the US will re-impose “full blocking sanctions” on nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises on June 3, prohibiting US individuals from doing business with those organizations.
Due to suspected human rights violations and abuses, the US halted authorization for some transactions with the nine sanctioned state-owned enterprises last month.