The UK, US, European Union and Canada have slapped fresh sanctions on senior figures in Belarus following the diversion of a flight to allow the arrest of a prominent critic of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.
The joint action came after a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania on May 23 was diverted to Minsk, where authorities arrested dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega.
The UK imposed sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes on seven individuals and one entity from the regime in response to the Ryanair incident.
Four individuals and an entity were also hit with sanctions in response to the continued suppression of democracy and human rights in Belarus.
As well as senior officials, the sanctions apply to BNK (UK) Ltd, an exporter of Belarusian oil products, depriving the regime of one of its main revenue streams.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK and our partners have today sanctioned those responsible for the continued suppression of democracy and human rights in Belarus.
“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.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said action was being taken against dozens of Belarusian individuals and entities.
“These actions, co-ordinated with Canada, the European Union, and United Kingdom, seek to promote accountability for the Lukashenko regime’s transnational repression and its affronts to international norms,” he said.
“These co-ordinated designations demonstrate the steadfast transatlantic commitment to supporting the Belarusian people’s democratic aspirations.”
Western powers have repeatedly condemned the Belarusian authorities following crackdowns on protesters in the wake of Lukashenko’s victory in a presidential election in August last year, a contest Mr Raab has described as “fraudulent”.
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.”