(Belga) France proposed, on Monday, to impose a “no-fly zone” on Belarus after that country hijacked a passenger plane carrying a Belarusian opponent upon its arrival in Minsk.
The heads of state and government of the European Union will consider imposing new sanctions on the authoritarian regime in Minsk on Monday evening, in response to the kidnapping. About a hundred Belarusian officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, are already under European sanctions for human rights violations in this former Soviet republic. “There may be other measures (…) I am considering a measure that should be discussed at the European and international levels, which is the banning of Belarusian airspace, which is a punitive measure,” the French Minister of State for European Affairs Clement Boone said on RMC Radio. “I want to look into the matter as quickly as possible and I think that would be one of the reasonable measures to protect us,” he said. “We have endangered the lives of European citizens, apart from this opponent,” he added, noting that the plane arrived in two European capitals, Athens and Vilnius, with many European Union citizens on board, including nine French. He pointed out that “this also generates less revenue for the Belarusian regime, because any flight over airspace is part of the air tax that belongs” to the country in question. The Foreign Minister stressed that “this is an act of state piracy and cannot go unpunished.” Roman Protasevic, 26, former editor-in-chief of influential Belarusian opposition media NEXTA, was arrested Sunday afternoon after an emergency landing of a Ryanair plane at Minsk airport. The International Civil Aviation Organization, an affiliate of the United Nations, has argued that a forced landing “could be in violation of the Chicago Convention,” which protects the sovereignty of states’ airspace. (Belga)