Belarus airline in its sights – EU takes new sanctions against Lukashenko

Now the EU is cracking down on the Belarus smugglers under Lukashenko. The state-owned Belarus airline Belavia should now even have to hand over planes!

The European Union will now be able to target people and institutions who have contributed to enabling the Belarusian regime to instrumentalise people for political purposes, the Council of Member States announced on Monday. There is talk of a “new sanctions instrument” that the EU foreign ministers have decided.

▶ ︎ Specifically, this sanction instrument is to be used against the state-owned Belarusian airline Belavia, among others. In the future, this should no longer be allowed to use machines from European companies that lease aircraft.

The aim is that Belavia will then no longer be able to fly as many people from poor or conflict-ridden countries to Belarus to be smuggled on to the EU.

Background: Aircraft leasing companies that have leased machines to Belavia include Danish company Nordic Aviation Capital and Irish company AerCap. You must now fear that you will lose a lot of money.

According to EU circles, Belavia recently only leased significantly more than half of the around 30 aircraft it used. According to the Irish broadcaster RTÉ, 17 of the 30 Belavia machines alone are leased by Irish companies.

These contracts are now being terminated, Ireland’s Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney told the broadcaster, adding: “These planes now either have to be returned or I assume that there will be legal action.”

EU targets 30 people and companies

According to diplomats, the new sanctions instrument is intended to target around 30 people and companies as a first step. In addition to Belavia, this should also include tour operators and members of the government apparatus in Belarus who were involved in the smuggling.

The “package” will be completed in the coming days, said EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell at a press conference in the evening.

Maas calls the situation “dramatic”

The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said that the situation was so dramatic that he could no longer rule out refusal of overflight rights or landing permits in Europe.

One will now have to continue on this path of hardship and also talk about additional economic sanctions. “We are still a long way from the end of the spiral of sanctions,” said Maas. What one experiences is a system that is inhuman and uses refugees as instruments to put pressure on the European Union.

It was initially unclear whether foreign airlines would also be sanctioned. According to Borrell, the threats have already led to a significant decrease in the number of flights with migrants to Belarus. As for the influx of people, you are in the process of getting things under control, he said.

Merkel is on the phone with Lukashenko

In the evening, Chancellor Angela Merkel also telephoned the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko. According to government spokesman Steffen Seibert, the phone call was about “the difficult situation on the border between Belarus and the European Union”.

According to Belarusian state television, the conversation lasted about 50 minutes. It was discussed, for example, how an escalation of the situation at the border could be prevented. It was also about humanitarian support for the migrants stuck in the border area.

At the same time, French President Emmanuel Macron telephoned Russia’s ruler Vladimir Putin. According to the Kremlin, he criticized the “tough approach” of the Polish border guards and said that the heads of the EU states should discuss the problem directly with Lukashenko.

3500 migrants at the Kuznica border crossing

Meanwhile, more and more migrants are gathering on the Belarusian side of the Kuznica border crossing on the EU’s external border between Poland and Belarus. According to the police, around 3,500 people are now gathered there, wrote the spokesman for the coordinator of the secret services, Stanislaw Zaryn, on Twitter on Monday.

He also posted a video with aerial photographs. They show a large crowd at the clearance facilities of the closed border crossing and an abandoned, destroyed tent camp nearby.

A spokeswoman for the Polish border guards said that an attempt to cross the border by force is expected. The Belarusian border guard also reported at noon that a “large column” was moving towards the Polish border.

“Bring migrants back safely to their homeland”

The focus is on what should happen to those people who are already in Belarus. “We have to talk about how we can bring them back to their homeland safely,” said Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Foreign Minister Maas spoke out clearly against accepting migrants stuck in Belarus in Germany. “I would advocate that the people who are there (…) be returned to their countries of origin”. You can see that people are flying to Belarus with plane tickets. “Those who get political asylum mostly have other routes to take,” he said.

Iraq wants to bring Iraqi refugees from Belarus back to their home country on Thursday with a first special flight. The return is voluntary, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Baghdad told Iraqi state television on Sunday. About 750 Iraqis are known to be stuck on the Belarusian border.

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Belarus airline in its sights – EU takes new sanctions against Lukashenko