Sunday 6/20/21
CONFLICT

EU bans Belarus airlines from its airspace after journalist's arrest

The 27 countries are obliged to deny permission to land in, take off from or overfly their territories to any aircraft operated by Belarusian air carriers.
FILED - A man boards a Belavia flight in Minsk in 2012. The European Union will seal off its skies and runways to Belarusian airlines as of Saturday in response to the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight and detention of a dissident journalist and his girlfriend last month. Photo: picture alliance / dpa
A man boards a Belavia flight in Minsk in 2012. Photo: picture alliance/dpa.

The European Union will seal off its skies and runways to Belarusian airlines as of Saturday in response to the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight and detention of a dissident journalist and his girlfriend last month.

The 27 countries are obliged "to deny permission to land in, take off from or overfly their territories to any aircraft operated by Belarusian air carriers," the bloc announced on Friday after member states envoys in Brussels formally signed off the move.

Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega were on board a commercial flight between EU countries Greece and Lithuania that was rerouted to Minsk shortly before it reached Vilnius due to an alleged bomb threat.

No bomb was found, but both were detained.

The bloc slammed the act as an affront to both air safety and freedom of the press.

The EU has also called on all EU-based carriers to avoid flying over Belarusian territory.

IATA criticized EU

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) condemned Minsk's behaviour but also criticized the EU.

"Two wrongs do not make a right. Politics should never interfere with the safe operation of aircraft and politicians should never use aviation safety as a cover to pursue political or diplomatic agendas," Willie Walsh, IATA's director general, said in a statement.

The bloc is also preparing a package of economic sanctions on individuals involved in the incident, but this could still take some time to finalize, according to diplomatic sources.

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