U.S. to Restrict Travel to Belarus After Journalist’s Detention
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. plans to bar people from flying to Belarus in the latest response to the European nation’s decision to force down a plane carrying a prominent journalist and critic of President Alexander Lukashenko in May.
The Department of Transportation, which has worked with the State Department, said Tuesday it intends to impose the restrictions after giving the public two days to comment. The DOT’s statement didn’t say when it will begin blocking such travel.
While passenger traffic is limited between the U.S. and Belarus, the action would be a symbolic move to register continuing U.S. concern over the detention of Raman Pratasevich, a Belarusian journalist and Lukashenko critic.
The action came after the State Department determined that the action is in the “foreign policy interests” of the U.S. as a result of the plane’s diversion, according to the statement.
Pratasevich was taken off a Ryanair Holdings Plc plane on May 23 after it was forced to land in Belarus under what Western governments called false pretenses. The plane was flying over Belarus while en route from Greece to Lithuania.
The prohibition would allow U.S. officials to grant exceptions for travel for national security or humanitarian purposes, the DOT said. It would prohibit the sale of airline tickets from the U.S. to Belarus, including on airlines other than those operating between America and the Eastern European nation.
Bloomberg reported the expected action earlier Tuesday.
Within days of Pratasevich’s detention, the Biden administration announced sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises, joining the European Union, U.K. and other nations including Canada in retaliating against Lukashenko’s regime.
The Federal Aviation Administration at the same time urged U.S. passenger-flight crews operating over Belarus to exercise “extreme caution” but stopped short of a ban on overflights of the region. The European Union’s air-safety regulator has advised airlines to avoid Belarus airspace.
Pratasevich in recent days was moved to house arrest after he and his girlfriend, who was also detained, reached an agreement with the government, according to a government statement.
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