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UK joins EU, US and Canada in imposing sanctions on Belarus over forced plane landing

The UK has joined the US, the European Union and Canada in imposing sanctions on Belarusian officials following the forced landing of a Ryanair flight last month.

The plane travelling from Greece to Lithuania on 23 May was diverted to the Belarusian capital Minsk where authorities arrested opposition blogger Roman Protasevich.

In a statement on Monday, the Foreign Office said seven individuals and one organisation had been sanctioned due to the diversion of the flight and a further four individuals and an entity had been sanctioned over human rights abuses in Belarus by President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab gestures during an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced joint sanctions against Belarusian officials alongside the US, EU and Canada

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the joint action has been taken as the Lukashenko regime “endangered the lives of airline passengers and crew” in its attempt to capture Mr Protasevich.

“The UK and our partners have today sanctioned those responsible for the continued suppression of democracy and human rights in Belarus,” he said.

“The Lukashenko regime endangered the lives of airline passengers and crew in a shameful ruse to snatch Roman Protasevich.

“We will hold the regime to account in co-ordination with our allies including through further banning travel, freezing assets and cutting off oil export revenue streams.”

Those with sanctions imposed include BNK (UK) Ltd, an exporter of Belarusian oil products, one of the country’s main revenue streams.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that the sanctions are necessary “to promote accountability for the Lukashenko regime’s transnational repression and its affronts to international norms”.

Belarus airs questioning of Roman Protasevich detained after forced plane landing

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Mr Protasevich after he was detained following the forced plane landing

In a joint statement the UK, US, EU and Canada said: “We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments.”

The flight in May was escorted to Minsk city by a warplane following reports it had explosives on board, according to an online flight tracker and Belarus state news agency BeITA.

Mr Lukashenko told Belarusian MPs he did the right thing. Pic by ordering the Ryanair plane to land. Pic: AP

Image:
Mr Lukashenko told Belarusian MPs he did the right thing. Pic by ordering the Ryanair plane to land. Pic: AP

But opposition groups in Belarus called the incident a hijacking operation by the government.

Mr Protasevich was arrested after the plane touched down and no explosives were found.

He runs the opposition Telegram news channel NEXTA, which is hostile to Mr Lukashenko and has become one of the main -s of news about demonstrations in the country.

The blogger was placed on a wanted list after last year’s mass street protests following an election in which Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, claimed a landslide victory.

Following his arrest he has appeared in several videos shown on state-controlled TV, appearing to praise the president and admit to organising protests.

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