White House spokeswoman Jane Psaki called for a “credible international investigation” into the diversion of the Ryanair plane that was connecting Athens with Vilnius, which was accompanied by a Belarusian plane to Minsk, saying that these events “are a direct affront to international standards.”
The spokeswoman added that the United States is preparing, with the European Union, “a list of targeted sanctions against key members of the Lukashenko regime, linked to current human rights violations and corruption, fraud in the 2020 elections and the events of May 23.”
The US Treasury is also developing sanctions against “elements of the Lukashenko regime and its support network.”
The United States also advised its citizens to avoid traveling to Belarus and to “take extreme precautions” if they were considering taking a plane overhead.
Washington confirmed that economic sanctions would take effect on June 3 on nine Belarusian state-owned companies.
In a clear show of support for the Belarusian regime, Russian President Vladimir Putin received Alexander Lukashenko Friday in the coastal town of Sochi on the Black Sea.
During the meeting, Lukashenko accused the West of trying to “destabilize” the situation in his country, and Putin welcomed the “tangible results” of the rapprochement between Moscow and Minsk.
Belarus is under intense international pressure after the hijacking of the Ryanair plane, and it was forced to land in Minsk on 23 May, which included the arrest of dissident journalist Roman Protasevic and his companion who were on board.
Protasevic, 26, whose Telegram social network Nexta became the main source of information in the first weeks of anti-government protests after the August 2020 presidential election, was held in Minsk and has already been under investigation.
The presidential elections on August 9, 2020 in Belarus gave Lukashenko a victory, with 80% of the vote, in power for 26 years, a ballot disputed by the opposition and not recognized by Western countries.