Airlines re-route to avoid Belarus
Airlines rerouted flights to avoid Belarusian airspace on Tuesday and Belarusian planes faced a possible ban from Europe, as international outrage escalated over Minsk, forcing down a airliner and arresting a dissident journalist on board.
Western countries have accused Belarus of hijacking and piracy when the Ryanair plane was intercepted as it passed through the country on a flight between Greece and Lithuania, and diplomats said France, the Ireland and Estonia reportedly raise the incident at a private meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Wednesday.
“The behavior of the Belarusian regime is scandalous, illegal and totally unacceptable … we also condemn this type of dangerous interference in civil aviation,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.
Video released overnight shows Roman Protasevich, 26 – who was pulled from the passenger plane after Belarus scrambled a warplane to escort him to Minsk on Sunday – confessing to staging anti-government protests.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the video was “worrying”. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had to pay a “bitter price” for the detention of Protasevich.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said the footage showed Protasevich had been tortured.
“He said he was treated legally, but he is clearly beaten and under pressure. There is no doubt that he was tortured. He was taken hostage,” she said during the interview. a press conference in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.
Belarus did not immediately comment on the torture allegation but has consistently denied abusing detainees.
Rights groups have documented hundreds of cases of what they describe as abuse and forced confessions during a crackdown on Lukashenko’s pro-democracy opponents since last year.
Lukashenko, whose opponents accuse him of rigging the August 2020 elections, has so far ignored Western sanctions, which mainly consist of banning various officials from traveling or doing business in the United States and the United States. the EU.
The Belarusian leader enjoys financial and security support from Russia.
The White House said President Joe Biden would discuss the incident with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their summit next month, but added that the United States did not believe Moscow had played a role in it. Read more
Belarusian state media reported that Lukashenko personally ordered the interception of the flight. Belarus says it was responding to a bomb threat that later turned out to be a false alarm.
Belarusian authorities on Tuesday released a transcript of a conversation between the plane and an air traffic controller in which the pilot repeatedly questioned information about the threat before agreeing to land in Minsk.
The transcript, which Reuters could not independently verify, differs from excerpts previously released by Belarusian state television, which suggested the pilot requested to land in Minsk, rather than the controller advised him to do it. Read more
Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sagega, 23, were arrested when the plane landed. Three other people also disembarked from the flight in Minsk, suspected by Western countries of being spies involved in the operation.
In the video that aired overnight, Protasevich can be seen sitting at a desk in a dark hooded sweatshirt.
“I can say that I have no health problems, including diseases of the heart or any other organ. The police treat me correctly and according to the law, ”he said, adding that he had“ confessed to organizing mass protests in Minsk. “
Sagega’s mother, Anna Dudich, told Reuters that her daughter, a Russian student and citizen from Belarus, had avoided politics but feared for her health and safety in detention.
“My hopes are now probably based on a miracle and knowing that my daughter is definitely not guilty of anything,” Dudich said. “She just showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Read more
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Sagega could also face criminal charges. Read more
“EUROPE IN ACTION”
In response to Minsk’s actions, the European air traffic control agency, Eurocontrol, recommended that European and UK carriers flying over Belarus reroute via the Baltic states. Read more
Britain has also said it is banning Belarusian airlines from entering its airspace. Read more
At a summit on Monday, European Union leaders called on airlines based in the 27-member bloc to halt flights over Belarusian airspace, which lies along a corridor major connecting Europe and Asia and earns hard currency thanks to overflight rights.
Lufthansa, KLM, SAS, Air France, LOT and Singapore Airlines were among the carriers who announced they would stop flying over Belarus. Read more
Belgian Charles Michel, who chairs EU summits, tweeted “Europe in action”, with a photo of a flight tracking map of the continent showing no planes flying over Belarus.
EU leaders have also ordered officials to work out new unspecified sanctions against Belarus and find a way to ban Belarusian airlines from bloc skies.
Belarus’s neighbor Ukraine has announced a ban on flights to or from Belarus and its own airlines using Belarusian airspace.
“If we give up, tomorrow Alexander Lukashenko will go further and do something even more arrogant, more cruel,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement.
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