EU Recommends Airlines Stop Flying Over Belarus After Forced Landing

Detained blogger Roman Protasevich appears in new video as EU cuts air transport ties with Belarus

These revelations have fueled anger against Belarus' leader Alexander Lukashenko and drawn the ire of global leaders.

He said he did not witness Pratasevich and his girlfriend being arrested as he had moved along the line when the incident occurred.

Lukashenko's brazen interception and forced landing of a Ryanair passenger jet, in order to arrest an opposition activist on board, highlighted his utter disregard for the European Union and its member countries, and his confidence in the patronage of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lukashenko, whose security services crushed months of pro-democracy demonstrations previous year after an election opponents said was rigged, has so far shrugged off Western sanctions, which mostly consist of blacklists barring various officials from traveling or doing business in the United States and EU.

Leaders of the member states urged the European Council to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines; prevent access to bloc's airports of Belarusian flights; and called on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus, according to the conclusions.

In Belarus, he faces charges of organizing mass unrest, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

The leaders called on their council "to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of European Union air space by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to European Union airports of flights operated by such airlines".

The EU and other Western countries have already imposed a wide range of sanctions on Lukashenko's government over its crackdown on opposition demonstrations following his disputed re-election to a sixth term last August.

Throughout Monday, EU leaders denounced the interference with the flight taking passengers from one EU capital, Athens, to another, Vilnius. US President Joe Biden has described the forced diversion of the plane and subsequent arrest of Roman Protasevich as "a direct affront to worldwide norms".


In a joint statement on Monday, the USA national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Russia's security council secretary, Nikolay Patrushev, said: "The sides agreed that a normalization of U.S". A Belarusian MiG29 fighter jet was scrambled to escort the plane in a brazen move by President Alexander Lukashenko who has ruled the country with an iron fist for over a quarter-century.

"What's shocking is that the West calls the incident in Belarusian airspace shocking", the chief spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, wrote in a scathing post on Facebook. "He is acting very reserved and you can see he is nervous", Protasevich said of his son.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was the only voice supporting Belarus' action.

At a news conference shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday, Michel accused Belarus of "playing Russian roulette" with the lives of innocent civilians. It was unclear if he intended a pun.

Politicians in the West have called for tougher measures that might isolate the country from the worldwide financial system or bar its exports.

The EU has consistently struggled to answer Russia's malign activity.

In a call with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Tikhanovskaya asked the United States to "isolate the regime and pressure it through sanctions", she said on Twitter.

Arriving for the meeting in Brussels, leader after leader had pledged a strong response. "The next step will be the report that will be prepared by the Commission and the high representative", he said.

Jacopo Barigazzi, Lili Bayer, Hans von der Burchard, Rym Momtaz and Nektaria Stamouli contributed reporting.

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