Belavia (B2, Minsk National) has failed to convince the Court of Justice of the European Union to annul the sanctions the bloc has been imposed on it since 2021, official court documents reveal.

The Belarusian state-owned flag carrier was seeking to scrap a series of decisions of the Council of the European Union that sanctioned it for allegedly carrying migrants from the Middle East to Belarus for them to then enter the EU by land, particularly Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. According to the court decision, Belavia “has been involved in bringing third-country nationals from the Middle East to Belarus”, in particular from Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Türkiye.

To facilitate this, it added, the airline opened new routes and increased frequencies on existing routes, and local tour operators acted as intermediaries in selling the carrier’s tickets to third-country nationals “potentially intending to cross those external borders, thereby helping the applicant to keep a low profile.” The court concluded that Belavia was therefore “contributing to activities by the Lukashenko regime that facilitate the illegal crossing of those external borders”.

The court specifically quoted a series of media reports in which individuals travelling on Belavia flights said that they were looking to enter the EU, including passengers who stated they received a visa from an honorary consulate of Belarus so that their journey appeared legitimate.

During the proceedings, Belavia argued that other airlines also operate flights between the UAE and Türkiye on the one hand, and Belarus on the other and that they also transported many people from Minsk to third countries in the period from October to December 2021. It also claimed that its Beirut flights were seasonal and that it transported fewer passengers in 2021 compared to routes from or to third countries other than Lebanon as well as that passenger numbers on that route were lower in 2021 than in 2018 and 2019. The court did not accept these arguments, saying that they could not prove Belavia did not contribute to the activities of the government in Belarus.

Belavia also attempted to argue that other airlines were also responsible for the movement of migrants and that their names were first included and then withdrawn from the list. But the court did not agree that this fact justified Belavia’s removal from the sanctions lists. In 2021, the EU sanctioned Syria’s Cham Wings Airlines (SAW, Damascus) on the same grounds as Belavia, but the airline was removed from the list in mid-2022.

Press reports on migrant transfers via Belarus have continued since, with the German newspaper Bild claiming that Southwind Airlines (2S, Antalya) had been using its route Istanbul Airport-Minsk National to ferry migrants, an allegation the airline denies and is willing to go to court over.

Belavia continues to operate flights from Minsk to Istanbul Airport (2x weekly) and Dubai International (1x weekly), the ch-aviation schedules module shows for the week starting June 3. It currently has no flights scheduled to Beirut.