EU breaks air link with Belarus over forced plane landing

Ursula von der Reyen speaks at a media conference at the EU Summit in Brussels

Ursula von der Reyen speaks at a media conference at the EU Summit in Brussels

EU leaders agreed to break the aerial link with Belarus on Monday after leader Alexander Lukashenko’s administration paraded a dissident journalist arrested after being forced to land in Minsk.

Strongman Lukashenko sent a fighter on Sunday to intercept Ryanair’s flight from Athens to Vilnius, wanted reporter Roman Protasevic, 26, and his girlfriend Sophia Sapega. Caused international anger.

European Summit in Brussels Counterattacks He agreed to ban Belarusian airlines from the block airspace, urged EU-based airlines not to fly in that airspace, and the US president blamed Belarus overnight.

Brock also said he would adopt more “targeted economic sanctions” against Belarusian authorities to add to the 88 government figures and seven companies already blacklisted over opposition crackdowns. ..

The move “confessed” to Belarusian state television on charges of organizing mass anxiety, confirming that he was in prison in Minsk by broadcasting a 30-second video of Protasevic, who lived between Lithuania and Poland. It happened when I did.

The footage showed that Protasevic’s forehead, which could face 15 years in prison, was darkly marked as being treated “according to the law.”

“This is what[the Romans]look like under physical and moral pressure,” the exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tihanovskaya wrote on Twitter.

The summit concluded that EU leaders called for an “immediate release” of Protasevic and Sapega.

The forced landing of airliners flying between EU countries refocused on Belarus’s fierce political crisis, which unleashed a wave of brutal crackdowns on Lukashenko’s insistence on power.

Western leaders accused Belarusian authorities of essentially hijacking European planes and claimed that Minsk had reacted to secure flight after being threatened by the bomb.

“It’s an exorbitant act, and Lukashenko and his administration must understand that this has serious consequences,” said EU Chief Ursula von der Aleien.

The EU’s move to punish Minsk followed announcements from several countries and airlines that it had broken ties with Belarus.

London also said it had instructed British aircraft to evade Belarusian airspace.

Ukraine said it would suspend direct flights between the two countries and over Belarus, but Scandinavian Airlines’ SAS and Lufthansa and Latvia-based regional airlines AirBaltic said it would avoid Belarus’ airspace.

Berlin, London and Brussels have summoned Belarusian ambassadors to increase pressure on Lukashenko.

Belarus accused the West of making “unfounded accusations” for political reasons and claimed to have acted legally over the grounding of Ryanair’s jets.

The demonstrator lifts a paper plane with the words

Demonstrator lifts a paper plane with the words “free Belarus” and “free Roman Protasevic”

The Secretary of the Air Force said the captain of the plane decided to land in Belarus “without external interference” and the pilot could choose to go to Ukraine or Poland.

Belarusian transport officials said they had received a letter from the Palestinian Muslim group Hamas claiming to threaten to blow up a plane over Vilnius unless the EU abandoned its support for Israel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed Minsk’s explanation as “totally unbelievable,” and the EU demanded an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, using repeated words by many other EU countries, said, “This was effectively a state-sponsored aviation hijacking.”

Mr Biden said the case was a “direct insult to international norms” on Monday night and accused the action of being an “exorbitant case.”

ICAO, a UN agency, will meet on Thursday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres supported the call for “a complete, transparent and independent investigation into this disturbing incident.”

NATO condemned the “serious and dangerous incident” and said the military alliance’s envoy was to discuss it on Tuesday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it a “shocking act.”

The EU and other Western nations have already imposed widespread sanctions on Lukashenko’s administration to crack down on opposition protests following his controversial reelection until the sixth quarter of last August.

However, Lukashenko continues to rebel with the help of his main backer, Russia.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab raised the possibility that Russia supported the operation.

“It’s hard to believe that this kind of action was taken, at least without the acquiescence of the Moscow authorities,” he told Congress.

However, Moscow dismissed the anger of the West.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Minsk was taking an “absolutely rational approach,” but minister spokesman Maria Zakharova ridiculed Western resentment.

“I was shocked that the West called the incident in Belarus’ airspace” shocking, “” Zakarowa said on Facebook, accusing the West of “kidnapping, forced landing, and illegal arrest.”

Protasevich, in collaboration with co-founder Stepan Putilo, until recently ran the Nexta channel on the messaging app Telegram. This helped organize protests, which was the biggest challenge to Lukashenko’s 26-year domination.

With nearly 2 million subscribers on Telegram, Nexta Live and its sister channel Nexta are prominent opposition channels that help mobilize protesters in Belarus.

Protasevich and Putsila were added to the list of “individuals involved in terrorist activity” in Belarus last year.

Swirling tensions around Belarus were apparent when Minsk expelled all Latvian embassy staff, including the ambassador, after accusing Latvian authorities of using the opposition flag in the ice hockey championship.

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