The European Union is moving forward to place sanctions on Belarus that will entail restrictions on the national flag carrier Belavia and on a group of top Belarusian officials. This action follows the incident on May 23, 2021, involving the forced diversion and landing of Ryanair flight FR4978 in Minsk, routinely flying over Belarusian airspace on the intended flight path from Athens to Vilnius.
Until further notice, EASA member state national competent authorities are to ensure that aircraft operators cease business operations in FIR Minsk territory according to an EASA safety directive on June 2, 2021.
The measures respond to the potential risk to passengers and crew flying over Belarusian airspace following the events on May 23, 2021. The safety objectives are set to be implemented within 48-hours from the issue of the directive.
This new package of sanctions proposes asset freezes together with travel restrictions on national flag carrier Belavia, and to about a dozen Belarusian aviation officials who are directly and indirectly tied to the incident. According to Reuters, this list is expected to include Belarusian defense and transport ministry officials, air force officials, a top Minsk airport official, and a senior civil aviation official.
EU countries have unilaterally enacted travel bans on Belavia, including neighboring countries Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Today, Russia remains the only neighboring state accepting Belarusian carrier flights.
The United Kingdom, which is no longer an EASA member state, has withdrawn the air permit of Belavia, and EU diplomats expect EU states to follow the same course of action as they look to penalize the Lukashenko regime.
Prior to the sanctions, the European Council urged EU airlines to circumvent overflight over Belarusian territory, deeming the May 23 incident an endangerment to aviation safety and infringement on international air law. After the flight landed in Minsk, journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega were detained on allegations of plotting a rebellion.