Wellington [New Zealand], June 17 (ANI/Sputnik): New Zealand's government on Thursday announced sanctions against Minsk, banning more than 50 Belarusian nationals associated with President Alexander Lukashenko from entering the island country over alleged election fraud and human rights abuses.
The island country joined the European Union that approved on Wednesday new sanctions against Belarus that came in response to the Ryanair plane emergency landing in Minsk last month that resulted in the arrest of Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.
"New Zealand has imposed travel bans on selected individuals associated with the Lukashenko regime, following ongoing concerns about election fraud and human rights abuses after the 2020 Belarus elections ... The ban covers more than fifty individuals, including the President and key members of his Administration, the Electoral Commission, the police and other security forces," the government said in a statement, citing Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
The foreign minister voiced strong concern about the Ryanair incident and the arrest of Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega, and welcomed the launching of a probe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
"The bans prevent targeted individuals from obtaining visas to enter or transit New Zealand. We will update and revise the list of those covered by the bans based on future developments," Mahuta said, as cited in the statement.
Relations between Belarus and Western countries became strained following the presidential election that saw Lukashenko secure his sixth term in office last August. The Belarusian opposition has not recognized the results, claiming electoral fraud. The election was followed by mass protests, plunging the country into a political crisis. Several Western countries, including the United States and the European Union, have slapped sanctions on Belarusian officials deemed responsible for alleged electoral fraud and protest suppression.
Tensions took a new turn following the arrest of Protasevich on May 23 after a Vilnius-bound Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk over a bomb threat, which later turned out to be false. (ANI/Sputnik)