LONDON (Reuters) – Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon who fell foul of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, said European countries should punish Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for his act of air “piracy” by sanctioning oil and potash producers.
“Roman Protasevich must be freed and the dictator punished,” Khodorkovsky said in a statement to Reuters. “The dictator should be hit where it hurts the most: his wallet.”
“European countries should join U.S. sanctions against Belneftekhim and sanction Belaruskali,” Khodorkovsky said. Belneftekhim is Belarus’s state oil company. Belaruskali is one of the world’s largest producers of potash.
European leaders threatened on Monday to limit international air traffic over Belarus and possibly restrict its ground transport, after a Ryanair passenger plane was forced to land in an incident denounced by Western countries as “state piracy”.
“The piratical interception of a civilian aircraft in the Belarusian sky contemptuously disregards international aviation safety rules and is an unprecedented case of using military planes to hunt down a journalist,” Khodorkovsky said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by William James and Paul Sandle)