Germany Summons Ambassador, Flights Delayed: Belarus Update
(Bloomberg) — Russia dismissed European Union and U.S. outrage at the forced landing of a Ryanair Holdings Plc plane in Minsk by Belarusian authorities who arrested a journalist on board.The European Union will consider further sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s administration when its leaders meet for dinner in Brussels on Monday night for the start of a two-day summit.The EU was already working on an additional package of sanctions over a disputed election last year and will now look at increasing the pressure on Belarus. Potential measures could include suspending flights over Belarus, banning the country’s national airline from landing at EU airports and blocking ground transit into the EU from Belarus, according to a person familiar with summit preparations.For now, even as Ryanair calls the interception an “act of aviation piracy,” the Irish carrier — like many other airlines — is still overflying Belarus airspace.Read More: How Belarus Snatched a Dissident Off a Ryanair Plane From GreeceKey Developments:Ryanair jet diverted to Minsk under escort from Mig-29 fighter jetBelarusian journalist removed from plane in Belarusian capitalU.S., EU and U.K. leaders condemn actions by authorities in BelarusRussia defends Belarus, its closest allyFlights over Belarus airspace continueAll times are Central European Time.Michel to Push for Concrete EU Measures (4:45 p.m.)European Council President Charles Michel will push for EU leaders to decide on measures against Belarus when they meet for dinner Monday night at the start of a two-day summit.“What happened yesterday is an international scandal. Lives of European civilians were at risk,” Michel said as he arrived at the summit building. “This is not acceptable and this is why we put the debate on sanctions on the table of the European Council.” “We are preparing different options, different possible measures and I hope tonight we can take decisions on that,” he added.Schroders Says Putin Unlikely to Jeopardize Biden Summit (4:45 p.m.)“The developments over the weekend are obviously negative and we will await a European response,” Schroders money manager James Barrineau said by email from New York. “We doubt Putin will want to jeopardize his summit with Biden over this issue, but it does not help the overall tone of the relationship of Russia with Europe.”Schroders has a “very small” position in Belarus, and for now does not expect implications for Russian assets from the forced landing of the Ryanair plane in Minsk, he said.Germany Summons Belarus Ambassador (4:29 p.m.)Germany summoned the Belarus ambassador to the foreign ministry in Berlin Monday evening to explain why the country forced a Ryanair jet to land in Minsk. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the previous explanations from Alexander Lukashenko’s regime “absurd and not credible.”“We need clarity about what really happened on board and on the ground yesterday,” Maas said in a statement. “And we need clarity about the well-being of Raman Pratasevich and his partner, who must be released immediately.”Lithuania Urges Its Citizens to Avoid Belarus (4:29 p.m.)The Lithuanian foreign ministry urged its nationals not to travel to Belarus and recommended those currently in the neighboring country to leave, according to a statement. The incident with the Ryanair plane demonstrates “a threat to security and lives of individuals,” the ministry said.Lufthansa Flight Leaves Minsk With all Passengers (3:42 p.m.)Lufthansa flight LH1487 from Minsk to Frankfurt took off at 4:21 p.m. local time, according to FlightRadar24, 2 hours after its scheduled time of departure. The airline had earlier said that it was cooperating with local authorities who were “searching the aircraft again before departure and subjecting the passengers to another security check” after receiving a security alert during boarding.All 51 people schedule to depart on the flight were on board, according to a Lufthansa spokesperson.Tsikhanouskaya Calls for Belarus Sanctions (3:28 p.m.)Exiled Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya called for sanctions against the country during a Monday phone call with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. She is scheduled to hold a call later in the day with members of President Joe Biden’s administration.Tsikhanouskaya also said the whereabouts of the detained journalist Raman Pratasevich are unknown and his lawyer is unable to contact him. The journalist’s girlfriend, who is a Russian citizen, is being held in a Minsk prison and has been refused assistance from the Russian consulate.Lufthansa Flight From Minsk Delayed by Threat (3:02 p.m.)Lufthansa flight LH1487 from Minsk to Frankfurt was delayed following a “security alert,” the German airline said in a statement. The Minsk airport said on its Telegram channel that it had received an anonymous email about a planned “terrorist attack.” Lufthansa said 51 passengers, including five crew members, were on board the plane.“We are cooperating with the authorities, who are searching the aircraft again before departure and subjecting the passengers to another security check,” Lufthansa said on Monday. The search includes unloading all suitcases and cargo.Czech Premier Says EU Must Be Tough (2:50 p.m.)The proposals for discussion about EU’s response include banning Belarus airlines from landing in the EU or suspending flights over Belarus’s airspace, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said. He said that according to available information, there were four Russian citizens on the Raynair flight “who probably had a lot to do with this unbelievable act.”“Europe’s response must be tough,” Babis told reporters before departing to EU summit.Passenger Number Confusion (2:40 p.m.)Lithuania’s criminal police said on Monday that 121 of the 126 passengers who left Athens on the flight arrived in Vilnius. On Sunday, both Greece and Lithuania said 171 passengers and crew were on the flight, which Lithuania said Monday was the number of reservations. There was also confusion over infant passengers, who didn’t require tickets, and some boarding passes that weren’t digital. Ryanair hasn’t confirmed the numbers.Lithuania’s transport member also said the country would ban flights to and from Belarus airspace starting at 3 a.m. on Tuesday. The ban will affect 26 flights a day. Lithuania’s neighbor Poland will propose at the EU summit on Monday that all flights between the bloc and Belarus be halted.Poland Wants to Halt All Flights Between EU and Belarus (1:55 p.m.)Poland has come as one of the strongest voices demanding firm action. At the meeting of leaders in Brussels Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will propose halting all flights between EU and Belarus.Belarusian Activists Ask EU For Help (1:50 p.m.)Holding a placard reading “SOS,” Belarusian activists in Poland appealed to the EU for help. Standing in front of Belarus embassy in Warsaw, Nexta founder and blogger Stsiapan Putsila said he’s received “more than a thousand threats” since Sunday. “We can’t stay silent,” said Jana Shostak, another activist.Police Revise Passenger Numbers (1:40 p.m.)According to Lithuania’s criminal police, 121 of the 126 passengers who left Athens on the flight arrived in Vilnius. The captain of the airliner consulted with Ryanair’s management before deciding to divert to Minsk. On Sunday, both Greece and Lithuania said 171 passengers and crew were on the flight.Poland Increases Protection of Activists (1:30 p.m.)Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski said on Monday his country was setting up “special protection” for activists on Polish territory who “could be in the cross-hairs of Belarusian or Russian services.”Raman Pratasevich, arrested after the Ryanair plane was diverted to Minsk, worked for Nexta, a media group registered and run out of Warsaw.Jablonski urged activists to avoid contact with Belarus as “we can’t tell what the regime is capable of.”France Says All Options Being Considered (1:20 p.m.)“Nothing is off the table,” a French diplomat told journalists when asked about possible punitive measures against Belarus.In addition to sanctions targeting Belarusian officials and companies, the EU is mulling the suspension of overflights of European airlines over Belarus, a landing ban for flag carrier Belavia in European airports, and the suspension of transits (including land) from Belarus to the EU, the French diplomat added, asking not to be named in line with policy.Ryanair Is Flying Over Belarus Today (1:10 p.m.)Flight FR3340 from Paphos, Cyprus, is scheduled to land at Talinn, Estonia, at 2:30 p.m. local time. The route takes the plane directly across Belarus territory, highlighting the mixed messaging coming out of Europe in response to Sunday’s incident.The airspace over Belarus is part of a major route for flights between Asia and Europe, with some carriers including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and cargo hauler FedEx Corp. continuing to fly over the country on Monday. Airlines have routed traffic over Belarus to avoid the restive eastern Ukraine region that’s been off-limits since a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 jet was shot down there in 2014, killing 298 people.Poland Orders Probe (12:20 p.m.)Poland’s state prosecutor said it has ordered an investigation into the landing because the Ryanair jet was registered in Poland and therefore falls under Polish jurisdiction.Estonia to Raise Issue at UN Security Council (12:00 p.m.)Estonia plans to raise the Belarus issue at the Security Council and has already started consultations to have a discussion, public broadcaster ERR cited the country’s foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets, as saying.Ryanair Cooperating with EU, NATO (11:50 a.m.)The diversion of the Ryanair plane to Minsk on Sunday was an “act of aviation piracy,” the airline said in a statement today.Ryanair said it was “fully cooperating” with the EU safety and security agencies as well as NATO, and wouldn’t comment further due to security reasons.Kremlin Says U.S.-Russia Summit Plans Not Affected (11:45 a.m.)Tensions between Moscow’s closest ally and the West over Minsk’s forcing of a Ryanair jet to land won’t affect Russia’s efforts to arrange a summit meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. Counterpart, Joe Biden, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.“I wouldn’t combine all this into a single system,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “These are different things, after all.”Peskov declined to comment on the details of the case, including on whether Belarus gave Russia advance warning of its decision to force the plane to land or whether Moscow’s agents were involved. “Our special services are in the closest possible contact,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have detailed information about the Ryanair jet.Russia Calls Western Reaction ‘Shocking’ (11:15 a.m.)Western countries are showing double standards, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “It’s shocking that the West is calling the incident in Belarus’s airspace ‘shocking,’” she wrote in a Facebook post.Zakharova cited past examples of what she said were western governments forcing planes to land, such as a 2013 episode when the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales had to land in Austria as the U.S. searched for Edward Snowden, as evidence that the U.S. and its allies use the same tactics.U.K. Joins Calls for Sanctions (10:40 a.m.)Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added to the voices calling for further sanctions against Belarus and the immediate release of Protasevich. In a statement, Raab condemned the arrest, adding “Mr Lukashenko must be held to account for his outlandish actions.”Russian Senator Defends Belarus (10:35 a.m.)“Formally, there was a bomb threat, so everything was done properly,” Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the International Affairs committee in the upper house of parliament, said in a phone interview Monday. “I don’t see anything unusual or unacceptable in the actions of the Belarusian authorities.”The arrest of Raman Pratasevich, the journalist, was justified, he said. “This person was sitting abroad and criticizing his homeland,” he said. “It’s a warning to Tsikhanouskaya,” he said, referring to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.EU Mulls Sanction Options (10:25 a.m.)Of the possible options for EU action, sanctions against individuals and entities would likely be the simplest, according to a senior official close to the European talks.Other options, such as the suspension all flights by EU airlines over Belarus and the suspension of all transit — including ground travel — between Belarus and the EU, would trigger increased costs for European companies, the official said.‘State-Sponsored Hijacking’ (10:10 a.m.)“This was a case of state-sponsored hijacking,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said in comments broadcast by RTE Radio. The airline has to do a “detailed debrief today with the NATO and EU authorities” after the incident, which he said saw passengers and crew held under armed guard.It appears the intent of Belarusian authorities was to remove a journalist and his traveling companion, O’Leary said. “We believe there was also some KGB agents offloaded off the aircraft as well,” he said.Irish Minister Calls for Tough EU Response (10:00 a.m.)“This was effectively aviation piracy, state sponsored,” Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney told RTE Radio. The EU’s response “has to be clear, tough, and needs to happen quickly,” he said.Belarus’s Bonds Tumble (9:30 a.m.)Worries over potential sanctions are scaring away bond investors. Belarus’s dollar bonds due 2031 tanked early on Monday, pushing yields up 23 basis points to a one-month high of 7.48%. The bonds traded at a yield of above 8% in August after authorities cracked down on protesters following Lukashenko’s claim to a landslide election victory.Flights Avoid Belarus (9:25 a.m.)Wizz Air Holdings Plc, Eastern Europe’s biggest discount carrier, said it has rerouted a service from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to Tallinn in Estonia to avoid Belarusian airspace. A spokesman said in an email that the Budapest-based company is “continuously monitoring and evaluating the situation.”Latvia’s national carrier Airbaltic has decided to avoid Belarusian air space “for the time being,” Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkaits said in interview with Latvijas Radio.Poland to Call for More Sanctions Against Lukashenko (9:22 a.m.)Belarus’s neighbor, Poland, will propose new sanctions against Lukashenko’s government at Monday’s EU meeting, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski. He declined to specify the type of measures Warsaw will seek, saying the government wants to consult with EU partners first.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.