Latvia Calls For EU Sanctions Against Belavia

2021 has been a difficult year for aviation in Belarus. In May, the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to arrest an opposition journalist saw many airlines opt to avoid its airspace. Now, a Latvian politician has suggested sanctions for national airline Belavia. This comes amid accusations of the country flying undocumented migrants into Eastern Europe.

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Latvia’s Foreign Minister wants Belavia to stop receiving support. Photo: Getty Images

Proposed EU sanctions for Belavia

Belarus as a whole has recently come under fire from the European Union for its role in an ongoing migration crisis. According to Yahoo Finance, the EU has taken issue with the fact that President Alexander Lukashenko’s government is reportedly allowing passengers without the correct documentation to fly into other parts of Eastern Europe.

The country’s national airline, Belavia, has also been caught up in the matter. At a recent meeting between European foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Latvia’s representative, Edgars Rinkevics, suggested that the EU should issue sanctions to the Belarussian flag carrier. Delegates from countries such as Austria supported the motion. Rinkevics stated:

We need to introduce stricter sanctions. (…) To put so-called tourism companies that are organizing flights (under sanctions), I also believe that we need to sanction Belavia fully, so that it cannot receive any kind of support.”

Belavia has had to reduce its network this year, shutting several EU routes. Photo: Getty Images

Also under fire from Poland

Latvia is not the only country to have targeted Belarus’s handling of the ongoing migration crisis at its border. While Belarus is not in the European Union, it borders three member states: Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. According to The First News, its government has been using this geographical aspect to invite migrants from Africa and the Middle East to the country on the premise that they will then be able to enter the EU.

What Poland takes issue with is the fact that Belarus supposedly profits from this migration. It does so by charging some migrants for help in illegally crossing its border with the country. Polish head of National Security, Stanislaw Zaryn, explained last week that:

These revenues should be treated as revenues for Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. [Tens of millions of dollars] went to various entities that take part in this migration route, but most of it went to the Belarusian state, because these institutions control and organize the whole process of people smuggling.”

Ryanair, COVID-19, Change Fee
Belarus has been in hot water since it forced a Ryanair flight to divert in May. Photo: Getty Images

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A controversial year for aviation in Belarus 

Belarus has become a rather isolated country in the world of commercial aviation this year. It first got into hot water when, in May, it forced a Vilnius-Athens Ryanair flight to divert to its capital, Minsk. The purpose of this diversion, which occurred under a fighter jet escort, was to arrest Roman Protasevich, an opposition journalist.

This resulted in widespread condemnation across the EU and indeed the world. Several airlines began withdrawing their services to Belarus, and even avoiding overflying the country on other routes. Such carriers included airBaltic and Lufthansa. Meanwhile, the CAA suspended Belavia’s operating permit in the UK. While the national airline has taken impressive steps in terms of fleet renewal this year, it still clearly has a long recovery ahead.

What do you make of Latvia’s proposed sanctions against Belavia? Have you ever flown with the Belarussian flag carrier? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.