Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse urged President Joe Biden to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, arguing that the Belarussian government’s recent hijacking of an airplane was done with “Moscow’s blessing.”
Belarus forced down a Ryanair flight between Greece and Lithuania on Sunday and arrested a dissident journalist on board. Sasse argues the incident shows Putin and his allies are “emboldened” thanks to Biden’s decision to end sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 oil pipeline last week.
Biden condemned the hijacking Monday but his administration has yet to announce any specific reprisals beyond demanding an investigation. (RELATED: Trump Spent Years Sabotaging Putin’s Nord Stream 2 Dreams. Now Biden Is Helping Them Come True)
“If President Biden wants ‘appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible,’ his administration needs to tighten the screws on Vladimir Putin. Like every puppet leader, Lukashenko doesn’t use the bathroom without asking for Moscow’s permission,” Sasse said in a Monday evening statement. “It’s fanciful to imagine he’d hijack a flight between NATO allies without Moscow’s blessing. Putin’s regime is emboldened because the U.S. dropped our sanctions against his treasured Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We should impose those sanctions tonight.”
The Ryanair passenger flight was flying from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania when Belarussian air traffic control warned of a bomb threat while flying over the country. Belarus sent a fight jet to intercept the aircraft and divert it to Minsk, the nation’s capitol. Once grounded, authorities searched the aircraft and arrested journalist and activist Raman Pratasevich along with his girlfriend, according to the AP.
WATCH: A Belarusian journalist has been detained by police after the commercial passenger aircraft in which he was traveling from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to Minsk due to a purported bomb threat. pic.twitter.com/08t1TQ9aiB
— Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (@RFERL) May 23, 2021
The European Union has threatened Belarus with sanctions over the incident.