The European Parliament has strongly condemned forced landing of a Ryanair passenger flight in Minsk and detention of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega, calling for more sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko's regime.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday, EP calls on the EU to punish those involved in forcing the plane to land in Minsk on May 23 and in the detention of Mr Protasevich, EP press service reports.

MEPs strongly condemn the "Ryanair hijacking" as an act of "state terrorism", and call for Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega, as well as all other political prisoners in Belarus, to be immediately and unconditionally released.

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The EU sanctions list must be expanded, the resolution says.

Read alsoLukashenko designates day of Soviet invasion of Poland, Ukraine as Unity Day in BelarusIt urges the EU Council to sanction the Belarusian individuals and entities involved in the matter as soon as possible.

"EU member states must also proceed with utmost urgency with the next package of sanctions against those who took part in or were complicit in electoral fraud last year and the subsequent human rights violations in Belarus, says the text.  Prosecutors, judges and law-enforcement employees who play a role in the repression should be on the sanctions list, as should agents working on disinformation, media, propaganda and officials supporting the regime, such as Marat Markov, who interviewed Raman Pratasevich on the state channel ONT on 2 June," the report says.

In addition, MEPs call for swift economic and sectoral measures targeting key Belarusian industries, in particular the crude oil and oil-products, potash, steel and wood-processing sectors. Financial support to the regime must be strictly denied, any new credit lines to the country's banks refused, and investments in infrastructure or economic undertakings must be halted.

European financial institutions must be prevented from acquiring bonds or any other financial instrument issued by the Belarusian government and affiliated public institutions.

Belarus should be suspended from international sport bodies and events

Read alsoMove to invite "LPR" terrorists to Minsk to "hurt" Lukashenko, MFA Ukraine warnsAlso, the resolution calls for Belarus to be suspended from international sport bodies and international events, including European and world championships, and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. MEPs further urge the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to remove broadcasting rights for the upcoming EURO 2020 football tournament from Belarusian state television TVR and assign them to the independent Belsat TV free of charge.

Forced landing of Ryanair passenger jet: Background

  • On May 23, 2021, Belarus scrambled a MiG-29 fighter jet to forcedly land a Ryanair plane in Minsk. The plane was heading from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania. Co-founder of Telegram's opposition channel NEXTA, Roman Protasevich, was on board the plane.
  • The plane was diverted to Minsk at the command of Belarusian air traffic controllers over a possible bomb threat, despite the fact that the distance to Vilnius was much shorter. After the plane landed, Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend were detained. Protasevich faces the death penalty in Belarus.
  • The circumstances of the forced landing of the Ryanair airline in Minsk will be investigated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).