The heads of European governments decided this Monday night at a summit in Brussels. In addition, they announced new sanctions against Belarusian officials of the organization, in response to the “hijacking” of the plane that detained Belarusian opposition leader Pratasevich. Government leaders also demanded the immediate release of Pratasevic and his girlfriend, Sophia Sabija.
According to Prime Minister Rutte, European Union leaders agreed with unprecedented speed. “This shows how seriously we have dealt with this matter,” he said after the first day of the European Union summit. According to the prime minister, the leaders “have really finished” the Belarusian system.
Prior to the meeting, Rutte called on KLM to stop flying over the country. “The Netherlands supports the no-fly zone on Belarus,” he said. He described the work of Belarus as “unprecedented and unprecedented”.
Initially, the 27 heads of government had to discuss the relationship between the European Union and Russia. A basic exchange of views was expected, without clear conclusions. Suddenly the arrest of Pratasevi led to great tension at the top. On a trip between two European capitals, Belarus “hijacked” a Ryanair plane with Europeans on board. “This was state-sponsored aviation piracy,” said Irish Foreign Minister Covigny. Belarus’s action called for a strong European response.
The European Union will once again put Belarusian officials on the sanctions list, which will prevent them from traveling to the European Union and freeze European bank balances. In February, the European Union already extended its sanctions against 88 officials, including President Lukashenko. Prime Minister Rutte said the Netherlands is working with other member states on a package of new sanctions, mainly targeting state-owned companies that support Lukashenko.
Given the “unprecedented” nature of Belarus’s work, many government leaders felt that Europe had to go beyond extending the new sanctions list. For this reason, it was decided Monday evening to stop air traffic with Belarus.
The UK has already taken action on Monday afternoon. The British transport secretary ordered British airlines to avoid over Belarus. Belavia jets are no longer welcome at British airports. The US Secretary of State Blinken called for Pratasevic’s release and said he would coordinate the new punitive measures with the European Union.
Belarus increased isolation in its region on Monday. Lithuania called on its citizens to leave Belarus as soon as possible. Latvian airline AirBaltic suspended flights to Belarus, and Ukraine did the same.
Only Russia remained behind Belarus and Lukashenko. Foreign Minister Lavrov praised his Belarusian counterpart for pledging to show transparency on the emergency landing. Ahead of the rigged August 2020 elections, the European Union took Lukashenko cautiously not to push him into the arms of Russian President Putin. This is now a thing of the past. In order to survive politically, Lukashenko surrendered to Putin. The two presidents are negotiating the formation of a federal state that would make Belarus a de facto Russian province. He no longer cares about the European Union, as the Pratasevic kidnapping showed.