Probe set for Belarus plane diversion as G7 demands release of journalist

Probe set for Belarus plane diversion as G7 demands release of journalist

Probe set for Belarus plane diversion as G7 demands release of journalist

In his first public statement since the Ryanair flight was diverted and opposition journalist and activist Roman Protasevich was arrested on Sunday, Lukashenko dismissed the subsequent global outcry.

White House is calling for "a credible worldwide investigation into the events of May 23" when a Ryanair passenger jet flying from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in Minsk to arrest opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.

European Union countries are banning Belarusian carriers and the European Union has also urged airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

The UN civil aviation agency was meanwhile due to hold an urgent meeting today to discuss Belarus after Western powers on the UN Security Council called on it to investigate Minsk's diversion of the Ryanair flight carrying Protasevich.

Russia's refusal to allow some flights skirting Belarus to enter its airspace since then fuelled speculation that Moscow might be mulling a blanket ban on such flights to support Belarus, a close ally.

"We don't know if it is case by case, specific cases, or is a general norm from the Russian authorities in order to make the European planes overfly Belarus", Borrell told journalists.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council will meet as the consequences of the incident play out in Europe's airspace.

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

"It is simply clear what these Western friends want from us", he said, speaking of mass election protests in Belarus in 2020.

While expressing concern about the forced diversion of flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius, ICAO has been quick to point out that it does not have the authority to directly enforce measures in retaliation at what political and airline industry leaders have characterized as a state-sponsored hijacking.

But after the Ryanair plane incident Mr Lukashenko's options appear to be limited.

On Sunday, Belarusian air traffic controllers diverted a Ryanair flight between Greece and Lithuania to Belarus's capital, Minsk, claiming there was a bomb threat.

On board the plane was Roman Protasevich, the founder of the Belarusian opposition Telegram channel Nexta, who for several years has been living in Poland while wanted back home. Opposition Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich was detained after the landing.

"They're going to kill him in there".

"We will enhance our efforts, including through further sanctions as appropriate, to promote accountability for the actions of the Belarusian authorities".

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