Conflict with EU and US continues to expand and intensify
Last week, the forced landing of the Ryanair airliner in Minsk and the abduction of Raman Pratasevich continued to dominate European/Belarusian relations.
On June 4 2021, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz stated that Raman Pratasevich, who was arrested by the Belarusian authorities after the interception of a commercial airliner, is a blogger and journalist, not a terrorist. Previously, on May 31, following a meeting of the Council of Ministers of Germany and France, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron condemned the operation as a “hijacking” and demanded the immediate release of Pratasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega. In addition, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described the incident as a “dangerous and unacceptable state hijacking of a passenger plane”, which will be discussed at the NATO summit on June 14 in Brussels
This position was supported by the Council of the European Union, who acted to ban Belarusian airlines from EU airports and airspace and called for an expansion of restrictions and sanctions against culpable individuals and further targeted economic sanctions.
In response, Raman Halouchanka, the Belarusian Prime Minister, announced in an interview with Belarus-1 TV that a package of counter-sanctions has been prepared. These measures will restrict certain Western technologies and impact large companies operating in Belarus with European capital (including Ukrainian enterprises). Belarus expects to deflect any economic damage via cooperation with China and Russia.
It also appears that Belarus has begun to act on its threat to cease cooperation regarding illegal transit migration to the EU. On June 5, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite reported a sharp increase in interceptions of migrants arriving via Belarus and described Belarusian tactics as a “hybrid war”.
However, thus far, Belarus is still ready to cooperate in the field of nuclear security. On June 4, Gostomnadzor confirmed that the second phase review of stress tests at the Belarusian nuclear power plant will proceed in partnership with the European Group of Nuclear Safety Regulators (ENSREG)
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Situation in Belarus