The White House imposed sanctions on Belarus and advised Americans not to visit the country as a result of a civilian Ryanair flight that was diverted.
On Sunday, Belarus’ Lukashenko administration ordered a commercial airplane flying from Greece to Lithuania to stop in Minsk and detained Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich. Belarusian aviation officials stated that the flight was diverted to Minsk due to a bomb threat, but the White House stated in a statement Friday night that the flight was diverted under “false pretenses.”
“Belarus’ forced diversion of a commercial Ryanair flight under false pretenses, traveling between two member states of the European Union and the subsequent removal and arrest of Raman Pratasevich, a Belarusian journalist, are a direct affront to international norms,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in the statement.
“These events took place amid an escalating wave of repression by the Lukashenka regime against the aspirations of the people of Belarus for democracy and human rights.”
Psaki went on to layout the repercussions for Sunday’s forced take down of the Ryanair jet, which she said was accompanied by the regime’s “continuing attack on fundamental freedoms.”
Among them, the United States has joined the United Nations and other international diplomatic, trade and aviation leaders, in public condemnation of Sunday’s interception of the civilian flight.
The US Department of State has issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel advisory, advising Americans not to travel to Belarus.
The FAA has also advised US passenger airlines to “to exercise extreme caution when considering flying in Belarusian airspace.”
According to the statement, the US will also begin reimposing sanctions on nine Belarusian state-owned firms on Thursday, preventing US individuals from transacting with these organizations.
The White House stated that it is working with the European Union and other partners to prepare a list of targeted penalties on key officials in the government “associated with ongoing abuses of human rights and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 election, and the events of May 23.”
According to the statement, the Department of Justice and the FBI have been collaborating with European counterparts to investigate the event.
“We take these measures, together with our partners and allies, to hold the regime accountable for its actions and to demonstrate our commitment to the aspirations of the people of Belarus,” Psaki said in the the statement. “We call on Lukashenka to allow a credible international investigation into the events of May 23, immediately release all political prisoners, and enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue with the leaders of the democratic opposition and civil society groups that leads to the conduct of free and fair presidential elections.”