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EU Decides to Cut Off Airline Links with Belarus

European Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the joint press conference after the special meeting of the European Council of 24 May. Photo source: @EU_Commission

Dozens of airlines decided on Monday to stop serving Minsk, after EU leaders said they would be imposing sanctions on non-member Belarus over the forced landing of a passenger flight out of Athens on Sunday.

Underlining that the plane diversion endangered aviation safety, the European Union called on its airline companies to avoid Belarusian airspace blocking the country’s link to Western Europe. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the forced landing a “hijacking“.

Among others, Monday’s EU summit also decided to begin the process of banning Belarusian airlines from flying over EU airspace or landing in its airports; called on the International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate the incident and on the Council to adopt further targeted economic sanctions.

Airlines stopping flights over Belarus include KLM, Lufthansa, LOT, Air France, Finnair, Singapore Airlines, Wizz Air, Avia Solutions Group, SAS, and AirBaltic, while several countries such as the Ukraine will not be allowing travelers coming from Belarus through its airports.

Source: @EUCOPresident

British airlines have also been instructed to halt flights over Belarus, and the UK government said it would suspend the air permit for Belavia, Belarus’ national carrier.

Eleven Greeks were among the 171 passengers on board Ryanair flight FR 4978 to Vilnius, Lithuania, when it was diverted by a Belarussian warplane and forced to land in Minsk, where 26-year-old opposition activist journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were then arrested.

In the meantime, the International Airline Pilot Federation (IFALPA) and the European Pilot Association (ECA) said they share the concerns expressed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding the incident and are requesting an independent investigation and an appropriate immediate response from security and safety authorities. 

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