EU enforces closure of its airspace to Belarus
Brussels, Jun 4 (EFE).- The European Union on Friday agreed to ban all Belarusian airlines from accessing EU airspace and airports in response to the forced grounding of a Ryanair flight in Minsk last month.
“The Council today decided to strengthen the existing restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus by introducing a ban on the overflight of EU airspace and on access to EU airports by Belarusian carriers of all kinds,” it said in a statement.
“EU member states will therefore be required to deny permission to land in, take off from or overfly their territories to any aircraft operated by Belarusian air carriers, including as a marketing carrier,” it added.
The enforcement will come into effect at midnight on June 5.
“Today’s decision follows up on the European Council conclusions of 24 and 25 May 2021, in which EU heads of state and government strongly condemned the unlawful forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on 23 May 2021 endangering aviation safety,” the statement said.
Belarusian authorities ordered the Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk in order to arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend.
The incident prompted condemnation from the EU and the United States.
Protasevich is the co-founder and former director of Telegram’s Nexta channel, the main information source on the anti-government protests that erupted after the presidential election last August.
In power since 1994, Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in the polls, which opposition activists described as fraudulent.
The election campaign and aftermath sparked the largest demonstrations in the country’s history.