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U.S. Reimposes Sanctions On Belarusian State Firms Over Diversion Of Plane, Arrest Of Journalist

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (file photo)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (file photo)

The United States will impose more sanctions on Belarus after the diversion of a commercial flight to Minsk and the arrest of a journalist on board.

The moves include reimposing full sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises on June 3, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on May 28 in a statement outlining the measures.

"We take these measures, together with our partners and allies, to hold the regime accountable for its actions and to demonstrate our commitment to the aspirations of the people of Belarus," Psaki said.

The United States is also coordinating with the EU and other partners to develop a list of targeted sanctions against key members of the Belarusian government "associated with ongoing abuses of human rights and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 election, and the events of May 23," Psaki said.

Belarus's forced diversion of the Ryanair flight on May 23 was done "under false pretenses," she said, adding that the flight, which was traveling between two member states of the European Union, and the subsequent removal and arrest of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich "are a direct affront to international norms."

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The nine state-owned Belarusian enterprises that will be hit with sanctions effective June 3 had previously been granted relief under a series of general licenses by the Treasury Department.

As a result of the move, U.S. persons will be prohibited from engaging in transactions with these entities, their property, or their interests in property, Psaki said.

In addition, the State Department has issued a warning to U.S. citizens urging them not to travel to Belarus, and the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a notice warning U.S. airlines to exercise extreme caution when considering flying in Belarusian airspace.

The Ryanair flight was diverted after authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to accompany the aircraft because Belarusian authorities had received information there was a bomb on board the plane. No bomb was found when the aircraft was searched on the ground in Minsk.

Psaki said the diversion of the flight took place amid an escalating wave of repression by the Lukashenka regime "against the aspirations of the people of Belarus for democracy and human rights."

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She called on the government to allow a "credible international investigation" into the diversion of the flight, to immediately release all political prisoners, and to enter into a "genuine political dialogue with the leaders of the democratic opposition and civil society groups that leads to the conduct of free and fair presidential elections under OSCE auspices and monitoring."

She said the United States will continue to advocate for action against the Lukashenka regime for its "affront to international norms and undermining of democracy and human rights," she said.

Lukashenka, who met in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 28, said the reaction by Western countries to the incident had been an "outburst of emotions."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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