World powers slap sanctions on Belarus over 'hijacking' of journalist's plane

The United States, European Union, Britain and Canada have joined forces to impose sanctions on several senior officials in Belarus over the forced diversion to Minsk of a passenger plane travelling between two EU countries last month.

World powers slap sanctions on Belarus over 'hijacking' of journalist's plane

The United States, European Union, Britain and Canada have joined forces to impose sanctions on several senior officials in Belarus over the forced diversion to Minsk of a passenger plane travelling between two EU countries last month.

Asset freezes and travel bans were also imposed on a number of officials linked to the security crackdown that continues to rock the country some 10 months after President Alexander Lukashenko was returned to power in elections branded by the EU and others as "fraudulent."

"We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime's continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law," the four said in a joint statement released on Monday (Tuesday AEST).

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"We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments."

The EU hit seven people and one entity over the "forced and unlawful" landing of the Ryanair plane, which was travelling from Greece to Lithuania when it was ordered to stop in Minsk.

Belarusian authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a dissident journalist who was one of the passengers and the incident, which some leaders labelled a "hijacking", sparked global outrage.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne condemned the "forced military interception" and called for the journalist's immediate release.

On Monday, the four countries called on Minsk to cooperate with an international probe into the incident, immediately release all political prisoners, and "enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue" with the democratic opposition and civil society.

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At a meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers also prepared a series of economic measures aimed at hitting Mr Lukashenko and his allies. EU leaders are expected to endorse them at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

The EU has gradually ratcheted up sanctions since Mr Lukashenko – dubbed the last dictator in Europe – won a sixth term last August in elections it says were fraudulent. The measures have targeted people accused of electoral misconduct and responsibility for the police crackdown that followed.

But the 27-nation bloc has taken a harder approach since the Ryanair incident, and over the country's alleged use of migrants to pressure neighbouring Lithuania, which has provided a safe-haven to Belarusian opposition figures and is one of Mr Lukashenko's most vocal critics.

Among their actions Monday, the ministers imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 78 Belarus officials and froze the assets of 8 "entities," which are usually companies, banks, or associations. It means that a total of 166 people and 15 entities are now under EU restrictive measures.

"This decision was made in view of the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, democratic opposition and journalists," a statement said.

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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting, said the economic sanctions "are going to hurt ... the economy of Belarus heavily."

The measures are likely to include action against the export of potash – a common fertiliser ingredient – tobacco industry exports and petroleum products.

"We will no longer just sanction individuals. We will now also impose sectoral sanctions — meaning that we will now get to work on the economic areas that are of particular significance for Belarus and for the regime's income," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

"We want to make very, very clear to Lukashenko that there is no going back," Maas said, adding that the 27 EU countries stood united on sanctions.

"We are really very, very determined not to budge, not just today — nothing about this will change in the coming weeks and months," he said.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said EU countries had thought only a month ago that it still might be possible to reason with Mr Lukashenko but that "the mood is different now."

Mr Landsbergis accused Minsk of "weaponising" migration flows. He said about 500 people were sheltering in Lithuania, most from Iraq, and that Belarus border guards brought 30 refugees to the border in recent days. He said Lithuania had limited capacity for them and is building a tent camp.

To kick off Monday's meeting, the ministers held a working breakfast with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate to challenge Mr Lukashenko in last year's election.

- With 9News Staff

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Victoria and SA extend rules for Sydney travellers

Victoria has extended restrictions on arrivals from much of Sydney amid the city's virus outbreak, which has grown to 11.

Victoria and SA extend rules for Sydney travellers

Victoria and South Australia have broadened restrictions on arrivals from much of Sydney amid the city's virus outbreak, which has grown to 11.

Thousands of people living accross multiple council areas must now get tested on arrival in Victoria and isolate until they get a result, potentially putting off people travelling on holiday.

The order affects people from Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick, City of Sydney, Waverley and Woollahra.

Similar restrictions apply from today for residents of and visitors to the same council areas entering South Australia. The key difference is a requirement for arrivals to self-isolate only until they are tested, rather than having to wait for a result.

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South Australia had earlier joined Queensland in introducing an immediate ban on travellers from the Waverley council area at the heart of the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

Australia's states and territories are responding to a growing cluster of coronavirus cases in Sydney's east, with exposure sites now spreading across NSW.

On Saturday, WA Premier Mark McGowan announced all NSW travellers into his state would be required to get tested for COVID-19 upon entry and isolate until they received a negative result.

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Sydney's latest outbreak had grown to nine cases by Sunday.

South Australia

South Australia has again upgraded its border restrictions for New South Wales travellers, starting from June 22.

All travellers who have been in Randwick, Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West, Woollahra and the City of Sydney in the past 14 days must now get tested on the day they arrive and on the 5th and 13th days of their stay.

They will be able to leave isolation as soon as they've been tested — without waiting for a result — but will be banned from high-risk settings and events with 1000 or more people for two weeks.

Under the earlier advice issued by health authorities, anyone who lives in or has visited the Waverley LGA in the past 14 days (but not before June 11) won't be permitted into the state.

That order, which came into effect as it was issued on June 19 at 7.48pm, remains in place.

Those who have already arrived in SA who had been in Waverley must quarantine immediately and contact SA Health for further advice.

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Returning South Australian residents, people relocating to the state and those fleeing domestic violence will be permitted in but must self-quarantine for 14 days.

People who have been at the growing list of exposure sites across New South Wales are also banned.

The new direction was signed by SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens.

Queensland

Queensland has declared the local government area of Waverley in Sydney a COVID-19 hotspot.

From 1am on June 19, anyone who has been in the Waverley area or has been to any of the venues of concern in the last 14 days is not allowed entry into Queensland.

Anyone who has visited the hotspots already in Queensland will be required to go into hotel quarantine.

The change came after NSW authorities announced a new local COVID-19 case linked to the cluster in the city's east, that they believed was acquired via "fleeting contact".

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the state would also introduce a new "traffic light" system for all arrivals.

It requires all people entering Queensland to complete a border declaration, regardless of whether they've been to a declared hotspot.

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Green means you're free to enter Queensland, yellow means you've been to a hotspot and must isolate and get tested. Red means you can't enter at all.

Residents of border communities travelling within the border region will be exempt.

Victoria

The Victorian government has extended its 'orange zones' on its travel permit system which means anybody from much of inner Sydney going to Victoria must get tested on arrival and isolate until they get the result.

The areas affected are Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick, City of Sydney, Waverley and Woollahra local government areas.

This means anybody who has arrived into Victoria from those areas from June 11 must also get tested on arrival.

Authorities in Victoria have not imposed any more restrictions at this stage, but Acting Premier James Merlino said the state is keeping an eye on things.

Victoria has published a list of testing sites online.

"We are, of course, continuing to monitor the situation in New South Wales with their cases and any implications for Victoria," Acting Premier James Merlino said.

People queuing for a COVID test at a pop up clinic on Beaconsfield St, Alexandria after two local acquired COVID-19 cases were detected.

Tasmania

Tasmania's Public Health Services has declared a number of venues across NSW as high-risk.

Anyone who has been at the growing list of exposure sites, also listed on the Travel Alert website, must immediately self-isolate and contact Tasmania's Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

People who have spent time at a high-risk (Level 1) premises at the specified dates and times listed, are not allowed to go to Tasmania.

People have been told to monitor the list of venues and book an test if they develop even mild symptoms.

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Western Australia

WA Premier Mark McGowan said all arrivals from NSW must get a COVID-19 test on entering the state or within 48 hours and self-quarantine until they returned a negative result.

They must wear a mask when in transit to their premises and to the facility they get a COVID-19 test.

Mr McGowan said anyone who has visited any of the exposure sites listed in NSW during the relevant times should self-quarantine for 14 days from their date of exposure and be tested immediately (within 48 hours) and on day 11.

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He said airport testing has been arranged for Perth Airport domestic terminals from June 20 for all NSW arrivals, however, arrivals can also choose to go to other COVID public or private testing clinics.

Mr McGowan said anyone who has arrived from NSW since June 11 should monitor for symptoms and get tested for COVID-19 if unwell.

Plus, with a single new case in Brisbane, Queenslanders are also affected.

People from Queensland who have visited any of the listed exposure sites during the relevant times must get tested for COVID-19 within 48 hours of arrival, and self-quarantine for 14 days.

Northern Territory

NT Health says people who have been defined as close contacts or who have been to an exposure site which lists them as that must quarantine for 14 Days on arrival.

People defined as casual contacts must get tested on arrival and self isolate.

You can find out more details about how to book your vaccine .

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