Statement on the Hijacking of Ryanair Flight FR4978 by Belarus

Belarus Freedom Forum, on behalf of Belarusian-American communities, calls on President Biden, Vice President Harris, the US Congress, and the State Department to initiate an immediate international investigation, demand Belarusian cooperation with the international community, and set consequences for the actions of the Belarusian regime concerning the incident with Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius on May 23, 2021. The actions of the Belarusian authorities – including a manufactured bomb threat, illicit instructions from Minsk ATC, and intimidation by a military fighter jet – that has led to the diversion and forced landing of FR4978 in Minsk in violation of international laws and the Chicago convention on international civil aviation, with the political goal of arresting an opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich, have jeopardized the lives of the passengers and crew and set a dangerous precedent that undermines the safety of journalists, dissidents, and political refugees all over the world.

Robust Economic Sanctions

On behalf of Belarusian Americans Communities, the Belarus Freedom Forum urges the U.S. government to implement the most robust economic sanctions to stop the escalation of political repressions in Belarus. We appreciate what the U.S. government has done already: personal sanctions on those responsible for violence and human rights violations and the recent announcement about sanctions on nine Belarusian state-controlled companies. Yet, these personal sanctions and announced economic sanctions have not been enough.

Belarusian Independence Day

President Biden and members of the U.S. Congress, On behalf of the Belarusian Americans Communities, we call on President Biden and members of the U.S. Congress to make public statements on March 25, 2021, in a show of solidarity with the Belarusian people fighting for freedom against Lukashenka’s ruthless regime and for independence of their country. We urge President Biden and members of the U.S. Congress to recognize March 25 as the Belarusian Independence Day and the white-red-white flag as the symbol of Belarusian independence and sovereignty.