The White House has also called for ‘a credible international investigation’ into the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk.
The United States has announced punitive measures against Belarus as well as Russia offered President Alexander Lukashenko has supported his stand in the West on the forced diversion of a European plane and the arrest of an opponent.
In a statement on Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the May 23 events a “direct violation of international ethics” and said that Washington – in coordination with the European Union – was drafting a list of targeted sanctions against key members of Lukashenko’s government.
He also announced the suspension of a 2019 agreement that allows U.S. and Belarusian carriers to use each other’s airspace and called for “a credible international investigation” into Ryanair’s forced landing.
Belarusian authorities last week clashed over a fighter jet and flagged what was a false bomb alert to force the plane to land, after journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested on board.
The 26-year-old is in jail and accused of organizing riots. This has to do with the historic protests that took place against Lukashenko in August last year after a controversial election.
Many people died during the unrest, thousands were arrested, and hundreds reported prison torture.
Protasevich – who works for Poland -based Nexta Live channel, which broadcasts the protests – could be jailed for up to 15 years.
Several European countries have imposed air bans on Belarus and EU officials say key sectors of Belarus ’economy, including oil products and the potash sector, are“ on the table ”.
The White House also issued a “don’t travel” warning for Belarus to U.S. citizens and warned American passenger planes to “be careful” when considering flying over Belarusian space.
‘Burning with emotion’
Meanwhile, economic sanctions against nine state-owned enterprises in Belarus, which were renewed by Washington in April after suppressing anti-democracy protests, will take effect on June 3.
In his statement, Psaki said further U.S. action in Belarus could also target “supporters of corruption, human rights abuses, and attacks on democracy”
Prior to the US announcement, a different scene unfolded at the Black Sea resort in Sochi, where Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Lukashenko for talks.
Putin said he was “delighted” to see the leader in Belarus and agreed with him that the reaction in the West was an “emotional explosion”.
“At one point they forced the Bolivian president’s plane to land and took him off the plane and left, calmly,” said the Russian president, referring to a 2013 incident in which Evo Morales ’plane was forced to land on Austria at one time. those tested in the US slapped whiff-blower Edward Snowden.
Meanwhile, Lukashenko, complained that the West was seeking to stir up unrest in his country, saying that “an attempt was being prepared to rock the boat to reach the level last August”.
The Belarusian leader, who arrived carrying a suitcase, told Putin that he would show him some confidential documents about the Ryanair incident that would help him understand what really happened.
“There is always a cause of problems for us. You know about them, I will let you know,” Lukashenko told Putin.
“I brought some documents so you can understand what happened.”