Belarus isolation grows as Europe cuts air links over diverted plane

Father Of Arrested Belarus Blogger Says Son'Physically Harmed

European leaders have also demanded the release of Roman Protasevich, an opposition activist who was on board the plane and arrested by Belarus authorities in Minsk.

She is still in disbelief that Belarusian authorities would deploy a fighter jet to force the plane her son was on to land.

From their new home in Poland, the parents of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich have been in anguish since he was seized after his flight was forced to land in Minsk.

Natalia Protasevich, the 26-year-old's mother, said she has not slept for two nights and grips her phone tightly, hoping for any news about her son.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said the worldwide community needed to go further, urging the United States to take action in a call with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. "They're going to kill him in there".

Protasevich was a founder of the Telegram-based news channel NEXTA, which played a crucial role during the mass protests past year against Lukashenko.

The Prime Minister said the video was "deeply distressing" and called for Mr Protasevich's release.

"The lawyer tried to see him today but she was turned down, she could not see him".

Even as the West condemned Belarus, the crackdown continued Tuesday, when Pavel Seviarynets, the leader of the opposition Christian-Democratic Party, was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of organizing mass riots.

With dark markings visible on his forehead, he said he was being treated "according to the law".

But Dmitry told AFP it appeared that his son had been harmed.

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"He would never speak like that".

He is said to have volunteered as a photographer and worked in a press capacity for the organisation.

Her fears were echoed by opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who said the worldwide community must act in concert to prevent a repeat of Belarus' weekend gambit. She later said that her family had faced threats.

Belarusian planes also faced a possible ban from flying to European Union cities, which could leave landlocked Belarus only able to reach its territory via its eastern border with its close ally Russian Federation.

"Canada has existing sanctions in place against Belarus and will be examining further options", the prime minister added.

Since Sunday, airlines have rerouted flights to avoid the country's airspace and European Union leaders have directed officials to draft unspecified sanctions against Minsk, on top of a potential ban on Belarusian airlines from EU skies.

Air France, Finnair and Singapore Airlines were the latest carriers to suspend flights over Belarus, following Scandinavian airline SAS, Germany's Lufthansa and Latvia-based regional airline airBaltic.

Mr Protasevich faces terrorism charges for his reporting on protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, which began after contested election results last August.

European Union leaders on Monday warned they would adopt further "targeted economic sanctions" against the Belarusian authorities to add to the 88 regime figures and seven companies on a blacklist.

The demonstrations were brutally quashed and thousands were detained - many of whom reported torture and abuse in custody.

"An ordinary Belarusian will not suffer from this".

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