Poland bans Belarusian planes from its airspace

Along with imposing further sanctions on the Minsk regime, EU leaders also decided to ban Belarusian airlines from entering EU airspace or landing at the bloc's airports, and appealed to airlines with EU headquarters to avoid flights over Belarus. Toms Kalnins/PAP/EPA

Poland has banned Belarusian airlines from entering Polish airspace, a government spokesman announced on Wednesday.

The ban will come into effect on Thursday.

A regulation was published in the Journal of Laws on Wednesday stating: "A ban is introduced in Polish airspace of aircraft used by airlines of the Republic of Belarus." It has been signed by the prime minister.

Government spokesman Piotr Mueller tweeted that the move, which followed a Council of Ministers meeting, was part of a number of measures targeting the regime of Alexander Lukashenko that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had pushed for during a European Council meeting on Monday.

Along with imposing further sanctions on the Minsk regime, EU leaders also decided to ban Belarusian airlines from entering EU airspace or landing at the bloc's airports, and appealed to airlines with EU headquarters to avoid flights over Belarus.

The ban comes after Belarus used the pretext of a bogus bomb threat to force a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk. Once on the ground, Belarusian security forces arrested Roman Protasevich, a leading dissident, and his girlfriend. Protasevich had been on a Belarusian wanted list.

Belarus's actions provoked outrage around the world. Poland accused Minsk of breaking international law, piracy, "state terrorism" and "hijacking an aeroplane," and has demanded an explanation and decisive action from the international community.