Statement by Press Secretary Jen Psaki on US response to Belarus’ forced hijacking of Ryanair flight and continued attack on fundamental freedoms
Belarus’ forcible hijacking of a Ryanair commercial flight under false pretenses, traveling between two European Union member states, and the subsequent dismissal and arrest of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich is a direct affront to standards international. These events took place amid a growing wave of repression by the Lukashenka regime against the aspirations of the Belarusian people for democracy and human rights. In response to the events of May 23 and the Lukashenka regime’s continued attack on fundamental freedoms, the United States is taking the following steps:
- The United States has joined in the public condemnation of the events of May 23 at the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Civil Aviation Organization ( ICAO), the Group of Seven (G7) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). We will continue to plead with these bodies for action against the Lukashenka regime for its affront to international standards and its attack on democracy and human rights.
- The State Department has issued a Level 4 do not travel warning to US citizens urging them not to travel to Belarus. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a notice to airmen warning U.S. passenger carriers to exercise extreme caution when considering flying in Belarusian airspace.
- On June 3, 2021, the United States will re-impose full blocking sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises previously granted under a series of blanket licenses by the Treasury Department. As a result of this measure, American people will not be able to engage in transactions with these entities, their property, or their interest in property.
- The United States, in coordination with the EU and other partners and allies, is developing a list of targeted sanctions against key members of the Lukashenka regime associated with continued human rights violations and corruption, tampering with the 2020 elections and the events of May 23.
- The Treasury Department will draft for the President’s consideration a new executive order that will give the United States increased powers to impose sanctions on elements of the Lukashenka regime, its support network, and those who support corruption, violations of human rights. human rights and attacks on democracy.
- The Department of Justice, including the FBI, is working closely on this issue with our European counterparts.
- The United States will suspend its discretionary application of the 2019 air services agreement between the United States and Belarus.
We are taking these steps, along with our partners and allies, to hold the regime accountable for its actions and to demonstrate our commitment to the aspirations of the Belarusian people. We call on Lukashenka to allow a credible international investigation into the events of May 23, to immediately release all political prisoners and to engage in a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue with the leaders of the democratic opposition and civil society groups that lead to the conduct of and fair presidential elections under the auspices and oversight of the OSCE.