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New EU sanctions on Belarus will cut contracts with Irish aircraft firms

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Action: The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said a new package of sanctions had been agreed. Photo: Valeria Mongelli/Hans Lucas/Bloomberg

Action: The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said a new package of sanctions had been agreed. Photo: Valeria Mongelli/Hans Lucas/Bloomberg

Action: The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said a new package of sanctions had been agreed. Photo: Valeria Mongelli/Hans Lucas/Bloomberg

Irish aircraft lessors’ contracts with state-owned Belarusian airline Belavia will be severed as soon as a new round of EU sanctions comes into force, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has confirmed.

Seventeen of the Belarusian airline’s 30 planes are Irish owned. Other airlines could also face sanctions if they are found to have a role in carrying migrants from the Middle East to Belarus, a route to seeking asylum in the European Union. 

Yesterday, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said a new package of sanctions had been agreed by EU foreign ministers and would be finalised in the coming days, the fifth escalation of EU sanctions since the re-election of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko last year.

They would target airlines, travel agencies and individuals involved in “this illegal push of migrants”, he said.

Irish aircraft lessors that have business with Belavia will be directly affected, Mr Coveney said.

“The contracts under which they are leased to Belavia will essentially be cut,” he said.

“Those planes will either have to be returned or, I presume, legal action will be taken.”

According to airline intelligence firm ch-aviation, state-owned Belavia is a customer of international lessors based in Ireland, including AerCap and SMBC Aviation Capital, with offices in Dublin, Limerick-based Nordic Aviation Capital and Shannon-based Thunderbolt Aircraft Lease.

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The airline has been added to EU sanctions because of its role in carrying refugees from Middle East conflict zones to the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania which have become the focus of intense efforts by migrants to cross in to the EU and by EU authorities to keep them out. 

Sanctions were also stepped up in May following the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk and the detention of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partner, Sofia Sapega.

The focus in now on thousands of refugees and migrants trapped on the Belarusian side of the EU’s borders who are attempting to find asylum in the bloc including attempts to breach border fences and other barriers apparently at the instigation of Belarus authorities.  

Poland has reported 5,100 illegal attempts to cross the border this month.

Additional reporting Reuters


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