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Belarus Says Western Sanctions Border 'Declaration of Economic War'

FILE - Belarusian Internal Ministry troops, with one soldier holding a Belarusian flag, guard a central area in Minsk, Belarus, Sept. 13, 2020. ( via AP)

Belarus perceives planned Western sanctions against the eastern European country as a near declaration of economic war, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

The ministry issued the statement one day after the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada said they would place sanctions on several top Belarusian officials in response to Belarus’s forced landing of a passenger plane last month to arrest a dissident journalist.

The EU also said it was planning to impose economic sanctions targeting key Belarusian export commodities, such as potash and petroleum products.

“[The EU] continues purposeful destructive actions against the population in order, allegedly, to "dry up the regime financially. In fact, this borders on a declaration of economic war," the ministry said.

Belarusian flight controllers on May 23 ordered a Ryanair jet en route to Lithuania from Greece to land in Minsk, where journalist Raman Pratasevich, a passenger, was arrested.

Pratasevich co-founded a channel on a messaging app that helped organize protests against the government of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Since his arrest, the 26-year-old journalist has been seen on state television tearfully atoning for his actions and praising Lukashenko, prompting Lukashenko’s critics to say Pratasevich was forced to make the remarks.