G7 foreign ministers condemn Belarus, threaten further sanctions

Lawrence Kim
Мая 29, 2021

"Concerning Russia, there are some problems there".

An Air France flight from Paris to Moscow yesterday had to be cancelled for the same reason.

The European Commission president said the EU's message was twofold: one of support to the Belarusian people - and a warning to Lukashenko.

Strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, who enjoys strong support from Moscow, sparked worldwide outrage by dispatching a fighter jet Sunday to intercept a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying Protasevich, 26, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23.

But a defiant President Alexander Lukashenko said he had "acted lawfully to protect our people", in an address to parliament on Wednesday.

The criticism was nothing more than another attempt by his opponents to undermine his rule, he said, accusing them of waging a "modern, hybrid war" against Belarus.

"Our ill-wishers at home and overseas have changed their methods of attacking the state", Lukashenko said.

Lukashenko - often dubbed "Europe's last dictator" - is facing some of the strongest global pressure of his almost 27 years ruling ex-Soviet Belarus.

Russian Federation said Friday that Western countries were being irresponsible and endangering passengers by banning flights over Belarus in response to President Alexander Lukashenko's forced grounding of a Ryanair flight.

Later on Thursday he protested on the Belarusian border along with dozens of Belarusian and Lithuanian journalists.

The EU has already moved to ban Belarusian airlines from its skies, advised EU carriers to steer clear of flights over Belarus and pledged further economic sanctions.

The Belarusian opposition has called for further worldwide action against the regime.

"The Swiss authorities have no knowledge of a bomb threat on the Ryanair Athens-Vilnius flight", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The call for action against Lukashenko follows the detention of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich on Sunday after his plane was ordered to land in the Belarusian capital of Minsk while it was crossing through the country's airspace.

Lukashenko called it an "absolute lie" that a fighter jet he scrambled was forcing the passenger plane to land in Minsk.

Sapega, a 23-year-old law student at the European Humanities University (EHU) in Lithuania, appeared in another video on Tuesday, saying she worked for a Telegram channel that disclosed information about Belarusian police.

Her lawyer said she had been remanded in pre-trial detention for two months and Russian Federation confirmed she was being detained as a criminal suspect.

The statement says the officials "condemn in the strongest terms the unprecedented action by the Belarusian authorities".

Protasevich's mother told AFP in Poland that she had not slept since he was arrested.

For Natalia Protasevich, the past few days have been traumatic.

At a press conference in Warsaw, Dmitry Protasevich said his son has been denied access to independent lawyers and doctors.

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