EU agrees new Belarus sanctions after plane re-routing
EU ambassadors agreed on Wednesday to impose sanctions on 78 individuals and seven entities after the forced landing of a European airliner by Belarus, diplomats said.
Seven of the individuals being sanctioned are linked directly to the incident involving the Ryanair passenger jet last month and 71 are targeted over the government's broader crackdown on opposition, diplomats said.
The measures are set to be formally adopted on Monday when EU foreign ministers meet.
Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko sparked international outrage by dispatching a fighter jet on May 23 to intercept the Athens-to-Vilnius flight and arresting dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend on board.
The EU in response has already blocked Belarusian airlines from flying to the bloc and stopped carriers from its 27 nations from using Belarusian airpace.
Brussels is also currently working on plans to hit key sectors of the Belarusian economy -- with fertiliser production and bond sales in Europe possible targets.
The EU has already placed 88 individuals -- including Lukashenko and his son --and seven companies on an asset freeze and visa ban blacklist over a brutal crackdown on protests since the veteran leader claimed victory at elections in August deemed fraudulent by the West.
Lukashenko -- who has ruled Belarus since 1994 -- has so far shrugged off the impact of the pressure with backing from his key ally Russia.