European Union ambassadors on June 4 adopted a measure to ban Belarusian carriers from flying over EU territory or landing at EU airports, EU officials said.
The EU move is part of planned punitive measures against Belarus in response to Minsk scrambling a fighter jet to force the landing on May 23 of a Ryanair flight carrying opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich, who was then arrested together with his girlfriend.
The move is due to take effect at midnight CET on June 5, barring any last-minute objections by EU member states before a self-imposed deadline of 2 p.m. CET June 4, which are not expected, according to the diplomats, who were speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The EU also strongly recommends that airlines from the bloc's countries avoid flying over Belarus. However, the recommendation does not amount to a legally binding ban.
On June 2, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency issued a safety directive saying all EU aircraft should not fly over Belarusian airspace unless in an emergency.
Belarusian national carrier Belavia runs flights between Belarus and some 20 airports in Europe, including Helsinki, Amsterdam, Milan, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Rome, and Vienna.
Enforcement of the ban on Belarusian carriers will fall to national EU governments, many of whom are also members of NATO, who can scramble fighter jets to protect their air space from intruding planes.