EU leaders want sanctions against Belarus and demand release Protasevich

European countries want sanctions to be introduced against Belarus. In addition, they want to further expand the blacklist of people and companies from Belarus. The Heads of Government decided this at a European summit meeting in Brussels. What sanctions will be introduced is not yet known. This will be decided by the European Commission later on.

The summit is largely devoted to the arrest of blogger and journalist Roman Protasevich in Belarus. The Ryanair plane he was in had to move to Minsk after a false bomb threat, where he was arrested. European leaders demand his immediate release.

Hijacking

The action led to great anger among European leaders, who spoke of abduction, hijacking and state terror. They called the practice dangerous and demanded the release of the journalist in fierce terms. A number of European countries called on the Belarusian ambassador and Latvia and Belarus even expelled each other‘s ambassadors and other diplomats.

The European Heads of Government emphasise their solidarity with Lithuania. According to the Heads of Government, Lithuanian diplomats were unlawfully expelled from Belarus.

Several European leaders, including Prime Minister Rutte, alluded to sanctions, and in the afternoon it was clear that a discussion on this would be on the agenda. The closure of the airspace for Belarusian aircraft would also be discussed, as was the insistence on the avoidance of Belarus by European airlines.

As suggested in advance by individual Heads of Government, the European Union is indeed calling on airlines to stop flying over Belarus. It is also intended to close European airspace to Belarusian airlines, which will also be banned from European airports.

KLM responds to call

Airline KLM already announced, following the call from Prime Minister Rutte, that it will not fly over Belarus for the time being. Initially it was decided, in consultation with the authorities concerned, that this could be done, but KLM returned after Rutte’s call. Lufthansa also said before the end of the summit to avoid Belarusian airspace for the time being.

The Heads of Government want the UN Civil Aviation Organisation to investigate exactly what happened in the Ryanair aircraft.

Meanwhile, it is still unclear how the 26-year-old Protasevich is and where he is staying. Through Belarusian government channels, a video is shared in which he contradicts his critical condition in the hospital, as Belarusian journalists report on the basis of his mother. However, it is unclear where and when the images are recorded and whether he says so under duress.