The European Union has reached an agreement on economic sanctions on Belarus, Austria’s government and EU diplomats say, in response to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight last month in Minsk and the arrest of an opposition activist who was onboard.
Austria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on June 18 that the agreement "is sending a clear and targeted signal against the Belarusian regime's unbearable acts of repression," while Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg tweeted that the sanctions were "robust and targeted."
It was not immediately clear whether EU leaders will approve the measure agreed upon by experts tasked with drawing up sanctions when they meet for a summit on June 22. If agreed by EU governments at a political level, the sanctions would include a ban on new loans, on EU investors from trading securities or buying short-term bonds, on EU banks from providing investment services, and on EU export credits, according to Reuters. The news agency said EU experts also agreed on a tighter arms embargo and a ban of exports to Belarus of communications equipment that could be used for spying. The proposed sanctions also reportedly include a ban on importing potash, a major Belarusian export, as well as restrictions on EU purchases from Belarus of tobacco products, oil, and oil-related products.
The EU has already responded to the diversion of the Ryanair flight between two EU countries by blocking Belarusian airlines from EU airports and airspace. Europe's aviation regulator has also urged other airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell earlier told members of the European Parliament that the bloc would likely adopt economic sanctions on Belarus this month.
On May 23, Belarusian authorities scrambled a military jet to escort the passenger flight over its airspace to land in Minsk in what many countries regard as a "state hijacking." After the plane landed law enforcement immediately arrested opposition blogger Raman Pratasevich and his Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega.
Belarus's move came amid a brutal crackdown by Belarusian authorities on demonstrations against the disputed results of a presidential election in August 2020. Belarus election officials say longtime authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka won the vote. But the European Union, the United States, and other countries refuse to recognize the official result and do not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader.