Statement by Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the United States Response to Belarus’s Forced Diversion of Ryanair Flight and Continuing Attack on Fundamental Freedoms
Belarus’s forced diversion of a commercial Ryanair flight under false pretenses, traveling between two member states of the European Union, and the subsequent removal and arrest of Raman Pratasevich, a Belarusian journalist, are a direct affront to international norms. These events took place amid an escalating wave of repression by the Lukashenka regime against the aspirations of the people of Belarus for democracy and human rights. In response to the events of May 23 and the Lukashenka regime’s continuing attack on fundamental freedoms, the United States is taking the following actions:
- The United States has joined 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 advocate at these bodies for action against the Lukashenka regime for its affront to international norms and undermining of democracy and human rights.
- The Department of State has issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel warning to U.S. 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 relief under a series of General Licenses by the Treasury Department. As a result of this measure, U.S. persons will be prohibited from engaging in transactions with these entities, their property, or their interests 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 ongoing abuses of human rights and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 election, and the events of May 23.
- The Treasury Department will develop for the President’s review a new Executive Order that will provide the United States increased authorities to impose sanctions on elements of the Lukashenka regime, its support network, and those that support corruption, the abuse of human rights, and attacks on democracy.
- The Department of Justice, including the FBI, is working closely on this matter with our European counterparts.
- The United States will suspend its discretionary application of the 2019 U.S-Belarus Air Services Agreement.
We take these measures, together with our partners and Allies, to hold the regime accountable for its actions and to demonstrate our commitment to the aspirations of the people of Belarus. We call on Lukashenka to allow a credible international investigation into the events of May 23, immediately release all political prisoners, and enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue with the leaders of the democratic opposition and civil society groups that leads to the conduct of free and fair Presidential elections under OSCE auspices and monitoring.