US. Condemns Belarus after arresting a journalist diverted to the capital while fleeing
Belarus used one of its fighter jets to intercept an Irish passenger plane and force it to land. On the ground in the capital, Minsk, State Security officials arrested one of the passengers – an opposition activist.
European leaders have called it kidnapping and state terrorism.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Sunday that the US “strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of Roman Protasevic”. Blinken said the US is “demanding his immediate release”.
“This shocking act by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including US citizens,” said Blinken’s statement. “Initial reports pointing to the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the aircraft are deeply worrying and require extensive investigations.”
The plane stood on the tarmac after security officials searched it and they arrested Protasevic, a journalist active in the movement against Belarus’ strong president Alexander Lukashenko.
Protasevic had boarded the plane along with about 100 other passengers in Athens in the direction of Lithuania.
But as the plane flew through Belarusian airspace, it made a sudden detour to Minsk.
Air Force general Andrei Gurtsevich said authorities told the pilot to reroute because of a security threat and even messed up an escort plane to “protect” it.
However, no threat was found and the Ryanair plane was allowed to depart – minus Roman Protasevich.
A fellow traveler described how afraid he was of his arrest.
EnormouslyIn 2020 against Lukashenko provoked a violent crackdown by the police, which has already brought massive criticism and international sanctions to the President of Belarus.
Now, says the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Belarus is even more of a pariah.
“I believe that Belarusian airspace is completely unsafe for any commercial flight,” he said.