EU considers sanctions for airlines and tourism companies that help migrants enter Belarus

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The European Union expects to introduce the fifth package of sanctions against Belarus. However, the besieged country will not be their only target.

The EU plans to target airlines and travel groups in the sanctions, which come after the organization accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately using migrants to destabilize neighboring countries. According to a draft sanction obtained by the Associated Press, the companies concerned are accused of helping Belarus to bring migrants to the country. From there, migrants would be encouraged by the country to cross international borders to Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

The Belarusian airline Belavia has been mainly named in the new sanctions as the main airline carrying migrants. The document indicates that “migrants wishing to cross the external border of the Union went to Minsk on board flights operated by Belavia from several countries in the Middle East, in particular Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates (United Arab Emirates) ) and Turkey “.

Other companies named in the sanctions include Cham Wing Airlines, the national tourism company Tsentrkurort, the passport and visa distributor VIP Grub and the Directorate of Property Management of the President of Belarus.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who spoke to the EU on Wednesday, expressed her approval of the proposed sanctions.

“Sanctions are working,” she told EU leaders. “Sanctions divide elites, destroy patterns of corruption and divide people around Lukashenko.”

Sanctions against Belarus and the companies accused of helping them are expected to be approved in the coming days.

For more Associated Press reporting, see below.

According to a draft sanction obtained by the Associated Press, the companies concerned are accused of helping Belarus to bring migrants to the country. From there, migrants would be encouraged by the country to cross international borders to Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Above, Iraqis speak to the press after arriving at Baghdad airport after being flown back from the Belarusian capital Minsk on November 18, 2021.
Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP via Getty Images

Tsikhanouskaya on Wednesday called on the European Union not to forget the plight of ordinary citizens and political prisoners in the former Soviet country, as the EU prepares new sanctions to prevent a security crisis at its borders blamed on Lukashenko.

Tsikhanouskaya told EU lawmakers that “882 of my fellow citizens have been found imprisoned for exercising basic political rights that people in the rest of Europe take for granted.” She urged the bloc of 27 countries not to recognize Lukashenko or his government and to strengthen support for ordinary citizens.

“It is getting late. Since August 2020, there have been many gestures and expressions of solidarity. Belarusians have been praised for having rekindled their faith in democracy and human dignity,” she said. “Isn’t it the turn of Europeans to show their attachment to these values ​​through action?

Cham Wing Airlines operates flights between Syria and Belarus. He is accused of having increased the number of flights from Damascus to Minsk during the summer and of having opened new offices in the Belarusian capital to better organize shuttles.

The EU says Tsentrkurort helped at least 51 Iraqis obtain visas for Belarus and organized their bus transport to the borders.

The company Hotel Minsk and Hotel Planeta, which are linked to the Directorate of Property Management of the President of Belarus, are accused of harboring migrants aiming to reach the border.

The draft sanctions list states that VIP Grub “organizes trips to Belarus with the explicit intention of facilitating migration to the EU. VIP Grub actively promotes migration to the EU.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine has launched a special operation on its border with Belarus aimed at strengthening security to prevent migrants from entering. It comes as hundreds of people, mostly from the Middle East, remain stranded in Belarus on the Polish border, trapped as forces from the two countries clash.

Ukrainian authorities said last Friday they had intercepted 15 people of Middle Eastern descent trying to cross Belarus – the first such incident at the Ukrainian border since the security crisis erupted at the EU’s borders.

Ukraine shares a 1,084 kilometer (678 mile) border with Belarus, and Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy has announced plans to build a border fence with Belarus and Russia as a result of the incident.

Sviatlana Tsikhanoskaya at the EU
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, November 24, 2021.
AP Photo / Jean-François Badias
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