The US condemned the forced diversion of a commercial plane to Belarus to arrest an opponent

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source: politico.com

The US condemned the forced diversion of a commercial plane to Belarus to arrest an opponent and demanded his immediate release.

Dictator Lukashenko landed a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania in Minsk to arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich, who actively reported last year's protests and repression.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken "strongly condemned" the government of Belarus for intercepting and landing in Minsk a Ryanair airline flight on which an opposition activist was traveling from Greece to Lithuania.

The United States has strongly condemned the forced diversion of flights between two EU member states and the subsequent deportation and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk. "We demand his immediate release," Blinken said in a statement.

The Lukashenko government risked the lives of more than 120 passengers, including Americans, as a result of this shocking move.

He noted that preliminary reports indicate that the use of Belarusian military aircraft in interfering with Belarus's security services and escorting the aircraft has been thoroughly considered and requires a full investigation. ۔

Belarusian state television has reported that Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old opposition blogger living in exile in Poland, was detained in Minsk after being removed from FC 4978's Athens-Vilnius route. , Apparently for security reasons.

After landing in Vilnius several hours later than scheduled, without Protasevich, some passengers described seeing the nervous blogger as the flight diverted to Belarus.

Minsk airport issued a statement earlier saying the plane had to make an emergency landing at 12:15 am after a bomb alert.

The president's press service, Alexander Lukashenko, said on Telegram that he had given the order to divert the flight and for a Mig-29 fighter to accompany the aircraft.

Blinken added that the United States stands with the people of Belarus in their desire for a free, democratic, and prosperous future and supports the government's call for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

European Union (EU) leaders, who have urged Minsk to allow all passengers to continue their journey, will address the incident and possible sanctions during a summit on Monday.

Several countries of the bloc, such as Germany and Lithuania, denounced the events, which the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, described as "state terrorism" and called for "immediate sanctions."

France summoned the Belarusian ambassador to Paris. And the UK, which is no longer part of the EU, also warned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that it risks "serious consequences."

NATO, for its part, called for an "international investigation" into this "serious and dangerous incident," said its secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg.

Lukashenko faced a historical protest movement in 2020 that brought tens of thousands of people for several weeks in Minsk and other cities in this country of about 9.5 million inhabitants. 

But mass arrests, police crackdowns on violence, killing at least four people, permanent court harassment, and heavy jail terms for activists and journalists.

In November, Belarus's Security Service (KGB), a Soviet-era heiress, added Protaswich, 26, and Stephen Potilo, founder of Nexta, to its "list of those involved in terrorist activities."

The current Editor-in-Chief of Nexta, Tadeusz Giczan, assured that KGK agents are on board. When the plane entered Belarusian airspace, KGB agents began fighting with Ryanair personnel, claiming there was a bomb on board.

A spokeswoman for Lithuanian airports told AFP that she received a conflict between passengers and the crew as the first explanation from Minsk airport. 

Boeing was stopped just before the European Union's border with Lithuania, according to photos from the special website Flightdar24.

Media Nexta, founded in 2015, played a vital role in the recent wave of protests against the re-election in 2020 of Lukashenko, in power since 1994, spreading slogans and sharing photos and videos of the demonstrations and repression.

The Belarusian opponent in exile in Lithuania, Svetlana Tijanóvskaya, immediately condemned Protasevich's arrest and assured that the activist faced the "death penalty."