Sanctions against the Belarusian regime are likely to be adopted later this month, according to the EU's foreign policy chief.
Josep Borrell was speaking to MEPs on Tuesday, where he explained that punitive measures against Alexander Lukashenko and his administration will be approved at the next meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers.
"As mandated by the European Council, and together with the Commission, we have started targeted economic sanctions, as the council requested, that will be adopted at the next Foreign Affairs Council, I hope," Borrell told MEPs in Strasbourg.
Borrell was addressing the European Parliament during a debate related to the hijacking of a Ryanair passenger flight and the subsequent arrest of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich last month, where he also said that the recent Belarusian state TV appearance by Protasevich was "awful" to watch.
"Their forced confession on state television is another example of flagrant violations of human rights that Lukashenko’s regime commit. It was certainly awful to watch this image of these people detained and crying," Borrell told lawmakers in Strasbourg.
Last week, the European Council agreed on an immediate, targeted response to the airline hijacking by banning Belarusian airlines from flying over the EU's airspace or using its airports.
But according to Estonian MEP Riho Terras, the bloc's reaction has come too late.
"That kind of violation, of course, the reaction was appropriate. I think the EU has not done enough before the hijacking of the plane," Terres told Euronews. "I mean, with the Belarusian opposition under pressure - it all has increased over the last years - and I don’t think Europe has done enough there, so it gave Lukashenko the possibility to take one step further."
On Tuesday, Lukashenko signed a law tightening sanctions against protesters who take part in unauthorised rallies, which also increases the penalties for those found guilty of "extremism" in Belarus.
Alongside Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega, Brussels says there are at least 450 other political prisoners.