Polish prosecutors to investigate Ryanair flight diversion

Marco Green
May 25, 2021

To add insult to injury, Belarusian state television broadcast a 30-second video of Protasevich, who had been living between Lithuania and Poland, confirming that he was in prison in Minsk and "confessing" to charges of organising mass unrest. The government spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

The leaders of the 27-nation bloc also called for the "immediate release" of journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega from detention, according to the conclusions of a Brussels summit, said an European Union spokesman. "We demand his immediate release", Blinken said in a statement.

The EU and other Western countries also called for the release of Protasevich, who was detained when the plane landed.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the detention of Roman Protasevich by Belarusian authorities, after a Ryanair passenger aircraft was hijacked". Sofia Sapega, a 23-year-old student travelling with him, was also detained.

The UK has condemned the actions of the Belarusian authorities after a Ryanair plane was diverted to land in the country to arrest journalist and opposition activist Roman Protasevich.

Mr Protasevich was a co-founder of the Nexta TV channel which was declared extremist by the authorities a year ago after helping to organise mass demonstrations against Belarus President Lukashenko.

Pratasevich was a co-founder of the Telegram messaging app's Nexta channel, which played a prominent role in helping organize major protests against Lukashenko.

Simon Coveney said he supported the idea of closing Belarusian airspace.

Some airlines and countries did not wait for guidance on how to respond to the diversion of the Ryanair flight. Deputy air force commander Andrei Gurtsevich said the plane's crew made the decision to land in Minsk.

Still, the options for Western retaliation appear limited.

The NATO military alliance demanded an worldwide investigation into Belarus' diversion of the passenger flight and arrest of an opposition activist.

The EU and the United States imposed several rounds of financial sanctions against Minsk a year ago, which had no effect on the behaviour of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who withstood mass demonstrations against his rule after a disputed election.

Flight tracker sites indicated the plane was about 10 kilometres from the Lithuanian border when it was diverted.

Western leaders accused Belarusian authorities of essentially hijacking a European plane, while Minsk claimed it had received a threat from Islamist group Hamas to blow up the aircraft. "I truly hope that the global community will wake up for him".

The press service of Lukashenko said the president himself ordered that a fighter jet accompany the plane after he was informed of the bomb threat. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied his group had any knowledge or connection to the matter.

European countries began banning flights over Belarus Monday after it provoked an global outcry by forcing a commercial airliner to land so it could arrest an opposition activist. State media said the intervention was ordered personally by Lukashenko.

Just one day after the Ryanair incident, a Lufthansa passenger flight was suspended in Minsk after a security alert.

Authorities reportedly came on board to assess the threat, detained Protasevich, and left.

The government has called for the release of Mr Protasevich and has threatened further sanctions on the Belarusian government, saying Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko "must be held to account for this outlandish actions". "This is a serious and unsafe incident, which requires worldwide investigation".

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab raised the possibility of that Russian Federation had backed the operation.

But Russia has dismissed the outrage in the West.

"I think this is an absolutely reasonable approach".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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