As we noted on Monday European countries, following the example of Lithuania and the UK, are now effectively imposing a ban on European carriers flying through Belarusian airspace after Sunday's Ryanair incident where the Ireland-based airliner was forcibly diverted from its flight path to land in Minsk, in order for Belarusian authorities to arrest anti-Lukashenko journalist Roman Protasevich.
And simultaneously EU leaders have barred Belarusian airlines from flying over EU territory, which would be devastating to state-owned Belavia's operations and the Belarusian economy broadly. The UK on Monday confirmed that it has suspended the national Belarusian airline's operating permit. Protasevich's girlfriend Sofia Sapega had also been detained. "European leaders meeting in Brussels called for the release of the pair and hit back at Minsk by agreeing to ban Belarusian airlines from the bloc and urging EU-based carriers not to fly over its airspace," Moscow Times reports.
Brussels has also confirmed it's looking to expand and ramp up already in place sanctions against the country and its 27-year long strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko. CNBC notes that the US will likely move on imposing its own measures in conjunction with the EU: "...the EU’s decision to implement new sanctions Monday was welcomed across the Atlantic, and President Joe Biden said the US will look at imposing measures against Belarus too," the report notes.
The Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania had been intercepted and escorted by Belrusian Air Force MiG-21 jets, which US and EU officials have slammed as putting the 170 passengers at risk. Americans had been among the international passengers on board.
Pratasevich had been arrested the moment the plane touched down in Minsk - after which there was near universal condemnation and outrage coming from the West over what many dubbed "state hijacking" and "state terrorism".
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the forced landing of a passenger flight by Belarus amounted to state hijacking and called for both an urgent international investigation and the release of seized dissident journalist Roman Protasevich https://t.co/WbJ2rjIZWy pic.twitter.com/6rXYQJPBuO— Reuters (@Reuters) May 25, 2021
The European Council is now said to be drawing up a list of "persons and entities" in Belarus to potentially be subject of new targeted sanctions. This after sanctions which go back to the early 2000's against 88 individuals and seven organizations are already in place, according to BBC, which reviews further:
The EU first introduced restrictive measures against Belarus in 2004, following the disappearance of two opposition politicians, a journalist and a businessman several years earlier. These included an arms embargo and a ban on "the export of goods linked to internal repression".
The EU imposed more sanctions against Belarus on 1 October 2020, in response to the "brutality of the Belarusian authorities and in support of the democratic rights of the Belarusian people".
Meanwhile a video of a detained and roughed-up looking Roman Protasevich has appeared online...
A murky Telegram channel published the first footage of Roman Protasevich since his arrest. He’s in jail, where he says he’s being treated well, and says reports of heart problems are false.— max seddon (@maxseddon) May 24, 2021
He’s confessing to crimes that carry a 15-year sentence.pic.twitter.com/MRDKFK8CY1
Any looming punitive actions will likely take the form of travel bans and asset freezes - but again, the most economically devastating will be those possibly permanent actions targeting the country's commercial airline industry.