The United States intends to suspend its 2019 bilateral air services agreement with Belarus, dealing another blow to the country's already embattled aviation industry.

In a statement issued on May 28, 2021, the White House said the Biden administration would ramp up pressure on the autocratic regime of President Aleksandr Lukashenko in response to what it termed the continuing repression of pro-democracy protests as well as the forced diversion of Ryanair's B737-800 on May 23 and the ensuing arrest of journalist Raman Protasevich who was onboard.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US would also seek to sanction Belarusian companies and individuals both unilaterally and in coordination with partners from the European Union.

"We take these measures, together with our partners and Allies, to hold the regime accountable for its actions and to demonstrate our commitment to the aspirations of the people of Belarus," she commented.

The 2019 bilateral air services agreement between the US and Belarus removed all restrictions on the number of flights and routings between the two countries. However, only US and Belarus carriers are authorised to exercise these rights.

The Belarus government had planned to develop Minsk National into a fifth-freedom hub and has reportedly been talking to the likes of AZAL Azerbaijan Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Uzbekistan Airways about launching flights from their respective hubs via the Belarus capital to the US. However, with this latest round of sanctions, these plans are now on hold. Other than Russia, flag carrier Belavia (B2, Minsk National) has now been banned from overflying all of Belarus's neighbours.