European Union leaders decided on Monday to impose new sanctions against Belarus and close EU air space for Belarusian planes after Minsk forced a Ryanair plane to land in order to arrest an opposition journalist.
At a summit in Brussels, the leaders of the EU-27 requested the immediate release of Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.
Belarusian authorities on Sunday forced a Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk and then arrested Roman Protasevich, one of the main opposition bloggers and activists who was on board. He has been on the wanted list after last year’s mass street protests which erupted after Alexander Lukashenko’s election victory.
In the conclusions of their summit, the leaders called on the Council of the European Union to expand the list of sanctioned persons and entities in Belarus, to adopt additional economic sanctions, and called on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus.
The EU leaders also requested that Belarusian planes be banned from flying over EU air space and access to EU airports.
They asked the International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate the “unprecedented and unacceptable incident.”