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US bans sale of tickets to Reuters for passenger flights to Belarus

The US banned the sale of airline tickets to and from Belarus on Tuesday after Minsk forced a Ryanair flight to land and arrested a dissident journalist on board.

The order is Washington’s latest reaction to the crackdown by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko against months of pro-democracy protests over his alleged manipulation of the August 2020 elections. The long-time ruler denies election fraud.

The United States and the European Union have refused to recognize their victory and have imposed sanctions on senior Belarusian officials and other targeted individuals.

When issuing the ban, the US Department of Transportation said the State Department had determined that restricting travel between the US and Belarus after the rerouting of the Ryanair flight was in Washington’s foreign policy interests.

The order would still “allow the operation of means of transport that is in the national interest of the United States, including humanitarian or national security reasons,” the text says.

He said the order will be expanded to include “interline” travel, where tickets are purchased through an airline that includes flights operated by multiple airlines.

The directive, which has been under consideration for several weeks, is primarily symbolic, as relatively few tickets for trips to Belarus are purchased through US travel services.

It’s open for public comment until July 1st.

After the crash landing of the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius on May 23, the US government advised passenger airlines to exercise extreme caution when flying over Belarus. At that time, the United States did not impose any restrictions.

The Notice to Airmen does not apply to freight companies such as United Parcel Service (NYSE :) and Fedex Corp, which fly over Belarus.

United Airlines has a route to India that sometimes has routes near Belarus, but no other American passenger airline normally flies through the airspace of the former Soviet republic.

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