Journalist’s arrest issue: US, Canada, UK and EEAS impose sanctions on Belarus
Belarus’ capital city Minsk
Washington/Moscow/Minsk: The Governments of the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom, and the European External Action Service today expressed “deep concern” regarding the Alexander Lukashenka regime’s “continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law” in Belarus, and took coordinated sanctions action in response to the May 23, 2021 forced landing of a commercial Ryanair flight at Minsk airport, to arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega.
They released a joint statement asserting that the Ryanair flight was between two EU member states, and that the arrest of Prastasevich was “politically motivated”. Their statement stated: “We are further united in our call for the Lukashenka regime to cooperate fully with international investigations into the events of May 23rd; immediately release all political prisoners; implement all the recommendations of the independent expert mission under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism; and, enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue between the authorities and representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society, facilitated by the OSCE.”
Charging the regime of continuing attack on human rights and fundamental freedoms, they asserted in the joint statement, “We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments.”
They further stated: “We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people. We are disappointed the regime has opted to walk away from its human rights obligations, adherence to democratic principles, and engagement with the international community.”
It may be mentioned that during the Geneva summit on June 16, 2021, US President Joe Biden had told the media that he had shared his concerns about Belarus with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He (Putin) didn’t disagree with what happened; he just has a different perspective of what to do about it,” Biden had said. Days before the summit, Biden had called the arrest of Pratasevich “shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press”. The US President had condemned “in the strongest possible terms both the diversion of the plane and the subsequent removal and arrest of Mr. Pratasevich” . Russia though has held a divergent view and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had then responded in Moscow, saying it was necessary to judge this incident based on all available information rather than in a rush.
After the Geneva Summit too, following a meeting with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei in Moscow on June 18, 2021, the Russian Foreign Minister claimed the issue of Belarus was mentioned at the Geneva Summit but not as an individual topic but in the context of conceptual discussions between the presidents. “They were conceptual but very specific in practical terms,” he said.
- Ryanair Flight Diversion Issue: Russia criticises EU for ratcheting up sanctions pressure on Belarus
- Biden-Putin summit on June 16 in Geneva; Belarus becomes another flashpoint in their relationship
Lavrov said that Makei had updated him on the situation with Russian citizen Sofia Sapega detained in Belarus. “The Russian Embassy in Minsk is closely monitoring this matter. As far as we know, the Foundation for Supporting and Protecting the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad is helping our citizens’ families pay for their lawyers. There are no problems with consular access. We hope that this problem will be settled soon,” he had said. But no mention of her companion Pratasevich was made.
The Russian Foreign Minister went on to claim that “serious external pressure” was being put on both countries based on “illegal unilateral containment tools”. Lavrov had claimed that “A hybrid information warfare is being used against us, with sanctions and dirty information attacks,” and told media persons that in light of “this openly aggressive policy pursued by our Western colleagues, we have agreed to coordinate our efforts to strengthen the national sovereignty of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus and to ensure our states’ national security through joint activities based on international law”.
– global bihari bureau