The European Union says it regrets Belarus’s decision to cut ties with the bloc, saying it will only further isolate the country and have a negative impact on the Belarusian people.

In a statement on Facebook on June 28, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced Minsk had recalled its permanent representative to the EU for consultations after Brussels imposed economic sanctions in response to the forced diversion of a passenger flight to Minsk last month that allowed for the arrest of a dissident journalist and his girlfriend.

The ministry suggested the EU representative in Minsk also leave for consultations and said those responsible for the sanctions, which target key sectors of the Belarusian economy and major revenue sources for the regime of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, would be banned from entering Belarus.

Accusing the EU of using sanctions “as a tool to impose pressure on a sovereign and independent state,” the ministry said that Minsk is also suspending its participation in the Eastern Partnership program, which seeks closer cooperation between the EU and six former Soviet republics — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

European Council President Charles Michel decried the decision, saying in a tweet that it “will escalate tensions further and have a clear negative impact on the people of Belarus by depriving them of opportunities provided by our cooperation.”

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