Belarus imposes retaliatory sanctions on EU and UK airlines

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By AP
The EU previously sanctioned Belarus for diverting a Ryanair flight to Minsk in May.
The EU previously sanctioned Belarus for diverting a Ryanair flight to Minsk in May.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, File   -  

Belarus says it will impose retaliatory restrictions on airlines from the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Minsk announced that it would also introduce a ban on imports of certain goods from countries that have placed sanctions on the country.

Imports of a range of food products -- including fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products -- will be banned from the EU, UK, United States, and Canada. The ban will last for six months starting January 1, according to a Belrusian government decree.

The move comes after the four Western powers slapped simultaneous sanctions on dozens of Belarusian officials and organisations.

The bloc targeted travel companies -- including state airline Belavia -- accused of helping to facilitate increased illegal migration to the EU.

The EU also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 17 more people from Belarus, including senior border guards and military officials, government representatives, and judges.

Brussels has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of waging a "hybrid war" and encouraging migrants to enter the EU to destabilise the West.

Belarus has denied the allegations and has in turn accused the EU of failing to ensure safe passage for the migrants.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has said the latest sanctions were "illegal" and "aimed at undermining the sovereignty of Belarus and deterioration of the well-being of Belarusian citizens".

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday the sanctions will not do any tangible harm.

Analysts say Russia is throwing a lifeline to the Belarusian economy by providing loans, selling oil and gas to the country at domestic prices, and opening the Russian market to Belarusian goods.

Russian President Vladimir Putin backed Lukashenko during the mass anti-government protests last year following his disputed re-election in August 2020.

“Lukashenko is ready to intensify confrontation with the West and be at the forefront of Kremlin’s plans, since Moscow still pays for Minsk’s anti-Western rhetoric,” independent analyst Valery Karbalevich told The Associated Press.

“Western sanctions will hurt sensitive sectors of the Belarusian economy, but they will be compensated for Belarusians out of Russian pockets.”

Additional sources • AFP