US proposes to ban air travel between US and Belarus

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FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, June 14, 2021, Belarusian dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich attends a news conference at the National Press Center of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Minsk, Belarus. The dissident Belarusian journalist and his Russian girlfriend who were arrested after their airline flight was diverted to Minsk last month have been moved from jail to house arrest. Raman Pratasevich, who ran a messaging app channel that was widely used in last year’s massive protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega were seized on May 23 when their flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to Minsk. (Ramil Nasibulin/BelTA pool photo via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Tuesday proposed sharp restrictions on travel between the U.S. and Belarus, the latest fallout from the forced landing of a passenger jet to arrest a dissident Belarussian journalist.

The Transportation Department said the order would bar airlines from selling tickets for travel between the two countries, with possible exceptions for humanitarian or national security reasons.

There are no direct passenger flights between the U.S. and Belarus.

The move follows the May 23 diversion of a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, so authorities could arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich after the plane landed in Minsk. Pratasevich faces a possible 15-year prison term. He and his girlfriend were recently moved from jail to house arrest.

President Joe Biden has condemned the forced diversion of the jet by Belarus so it could arrest a dissident journalist as an “outrageous incident” and has joined calls for an international investigation.

Last week the European Union imposed new economic sanctions to register concern over the incident. Belarus responded Monday by stopping cooperation against illegal migration and banning EU officials.

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