European Union ambassadors on Friday adopted a plan to ban Belarus airlines from flying over EU territory or landing in EU airports, three diplomats said.
The decision is part of broader economic sanctions against Belarus in response to Minsk’s scrambling a warplane to force the landing of a Ryanair flight carrying an opposition journalist last month.
The decision is due to take effect at midnight Central European Time (CET), barring any last-minute objections by EU states before a self-imposed deadline of 1400 CET, which are not expected, the diplomats said.
The EU also strongly recommends that EU airlines avoid flying over Belarus, but that does not amount to a legally binding ban.
European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol has said around 400 civilian planes usually fly over Belarus every day, including 300 overflights of which about 100 are operated by EU or British carriers.
Lufthansa, SAS, Air France, LOT, Finnair and airBaltic are among carriers that have already announced they would stop flying over Belarus.
Belarusian national carrier Belavia runs flights linking Belarus with some 20 airports in Europe including Helsinki, Amsterdam, Milan, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Rome and Vienna.
Enforcement of the ban on Belarus carriers will fall to national EU governments, many of whom are also members of NATO, who can scramble fighter jets to protect their airspace from unwelcome aircraft.