Kallas: EU joint response to Belarus 'quick and strong'

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas with President of the European Council Charles Michel. Source: Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas called the EU's joint response to Belarus diverting a commercial plane as "quick and strong" on Monday. The European Union will create more sanctions and flight restrictions.

EU member state leaders met on Monday to discuss their joint response. It was decided to strengthen sanctions on officials and the economy, demand the release of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega and called for EU-based airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace. The full statement can be read below.

Writing on Twitter after the meeting, Kallas (Reform) said the European Council gave a "quick and strong response".

In a statement released on Tuesday, Kallas said: "By hijacking a passenger plane flying between the capitals of two European Union Member States, the Belarusian regime has committed a state act of terrorism," said Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. "The way in which Alexander Lukashenko's regime arrested a government-critical journalist is unacceptable and will not go unpunished."

Estonia has said it will also raise the issue at the United Nations Security Council. 

The council's full statement is republished below.

European Council conclusions on Belarus (May 24)

The European Council strongly condemns the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on May 23, 2021 endangering aviation safety, and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega.

The European Council:

- demands the immediate release of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega and that their freedom of movement be guaranteed;

- calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization to urgently investigate this unprecedented and unacceptable incident;

- invites the Council to adopt additional listings of persons and entities as soon as possible on the basis of the relevant sanctions framework;

- calls on the Council to adopt further targeted economic sanctions and invites the High Representative and the Commission to submit proposals without delay to this end;

- calls on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus;

- calls on the Council to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines;

- stands in solidarity with Latvia following the unjustified expulsion of Latvian diplomats.

The European Council will remain seized of the matter.

The council's statement can be read here.  

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Editor: Helen Wright

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