Europe and the United States have condemned the forced landing of a flight from Greece to Lithuania in Belarus.
Belarussian security officials detained a leading opposition journalist on board the plane and released him.
Roman Pratasevich is a prominent Belarusian journalist. He was on a Ryanair passenger plane from Greece to Lithuania when his flight was forced to land in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Roman Pratasevich’s flight was passing through Belarus when a local flight controller warned the aircrew of a bomb threat and instructed the pilot to land the plane at Minsk airport. Meanwhile, a Belarusian warplane circled the flight.
After the passenger plane landed at Minsk Airport, security officials took Roman Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend with them, after which the plane was allowed to continue its journey.
European countries have expressed outrage at the detention of Raman Pratasevich, a journalist active in Belarus against President Lukashenko’s personal rule.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the forced rerouting a reprehensible move.
In a statement, he said the operation was an attempt by Belarus to silence the opposition.
Tensions between the European Union and Belarus have risen sharply since the incident. The issue has gained prominence in the two-day EU summit, which begins in Paris. The meeting is expected to consider taking a tougher stance against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Statement by the President of Lithuania
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda strongly condemned Belarus’s move, calling it an act of “state terrorism.” He called for a ban on Belarusian flights to EU airports. He added that the European Union should impose tougher sanctions on Belarus.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the incident an attempt to silence the opposition and demanded the immediate release of journalist Raman Pratishevich. According to the US Secretary of State, the Belarussian government forcibly changed the direction of the plane, endangering the lives of many passengers.
The Secretary of State said the International Civil Aviation Council should take immediate notice of the incident.