Iron Curtain 2.0: Belarus bars citizens from leaving country

  • Belarus prevents its citizens from traveling abroad
  • Belarus claims exit ban is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 pandemic
  • Belarus’ domestic efforts to control the spread of the virus are virtually nonexistent

Belarusian border officials have intensified their efforts to prevent Belarus’ citizens from trying to travel out of the country.

Only Belarusian citizens allowed to leave Belarus are the ones that have proof of permanent residency in a foreign country.

Belarusian State Border Committee issued a statement this week saying that it had “recently received many appeals” from those wishing to leave the country. “We officially clarify that since December 21, 2020, exit is temporarily suspended for citizens of Belarus.”

Exceptions, the officials say, will be made only for those with proof of permanent residency in a foreign nation. Those with visas or temporary residence permits “do not have grounds for leaving the country.”

The tough measures at the border, officials claim, are necessary to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they jar with Belarus’ virtually nonexistent domestic efforts to control the spread of the virus. Citizens returning from overseas are not required to take a coronavirus test, and the country has consistently refused to introduce national lockdowns.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Belarusian dictator Lukashenko announced that drinking vodka and visiting the sauna would be the best way to ward off COVID-19. He has also said that playing organized sport was an effective cure, and that “it’s better to die standing on your feet than to live on your knees.”

Belarus’ dictator and his secret police drew a storm of worldwide condemnation last week after a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was hijacked and forced to land in Minsk on May 23. Once on the tarmac, state security agents immediately arrested the editor of a banned Telegram channel, Roman Protasevich, and his girlfriend, Russian national Sofia Sapega, who were among the flight’s passengers.

The European Union, which has described the hijacking of Ryanair flight as “state piracy,” is now preparing a package of sanctions against Belarus’ national airline, as well as around a dozen aviation officials. Belavia, the country’s flag carrier, has been effectively banned from EU member states’ airspaces as of last week, and many Western airlines are boycotting routes that pass over Belarus.

According to an unnamed EU diplomat, “all EU states agree with this approach.” A second envoy added that the new sanctions would be “a clear signal for Lukashenko that his actions were dangerous and unacceptable.”

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