Lithuania is asking for Belarusian airspace to be closed because of its “state terrorism” if a landing is forced

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has described “state terrorism” as the forced landing of a plane in Belarus that traveled between Athens and Vilnius to arrest an opposition journalist, and stressed that the country will work to close Belarusian airspace to international flights.

Belarusian authorities forced an Irish airline Ryanair to land in what appeared to be an exiled opposition journalist, Raman Protasevich, to arrest. Minsk reportedly informed the crew of a bomb threat and even sent a fighter jet to force the airliner to land.

“It is an unprecedented attack on the international community. A civil aircraft and its passengers have been hijacked by military force, and a Belarusian national whose life and health are in danger has been kidnapped,” Simonyte said in a statement.

Lithuania is asking for Belarusian airspace to be closed because of its “state terrorism” if a landing is forced
Lithuania is asking for Belarusian airspace to be closed because of its “state terrorism” if a landing is forced

He stressed that “it is unjustifiable that international travelers have been taken hostage by the aggression of the (Belarusian) regime” and added that “it is an act of state terrorism that is against the safety of the citizens of the European Union and other countries is directed. Belarusian civil society seeking asylum from the persecution of the regime and international civil aviation “.

“Lithuania will ask the international community for a clear and uncompromising answer. Belarusian airspace is unsafe for everyone,” he argued, stressing that the EU “must take effective measures to protect all persons who are at risk of inappropriate action by the ( Belarusian) government. Regime regardless of nationality. “

“Together with international partners, we will work to close Belarusian airspace to international flights,” said Simonyte, who emphasized that the events “are not just an attack on Lithuania”. “It is a signal for the whole of the EU and international organizations,” he added.

Simonyte’s words come after his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis highlighted in his report on the social network Twitter that “the forced landing of an airliner to arrest a journalist is an unprecedented and shocking act”.

He also stressed that the meeting of EU heads of state and government this Monday in Brussels “must address the need to increase pressure on Belarus”. “Enough is enough,” he decided.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell confirmed this Monday that “the situation will be dealt with in this European Council”. “The European Union will examine the consequences of this action, including action against those responsible,” he added.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney added to the criticism and said the event was “absolutely unacceptable”. “It is an Irish airline with EU citizens on board that is forced to land in Minsk when traveling between EU cities,” he said.

“A unified EU response is needed. Inaction or indecision on the part of the EU is seen by Belarus as a weakness,” he said in a message posted on Twitter.

For their part, the Belarusian authorities have set up a commission to investigate the incident, according to sources from the Ministry of Transport and Communications quoted by the Russian news agency Sputnik. “All the circumstances (of what happened) will be made public soon,” they stated.

The aircraft’s crew was alerted by the Belarusian authorities to a possible threat to the aircraft’s security and forced to land near Minsk, Ryanair said, but they confirmed that “nothing inappropriate was found” on the aircraft.

According to the specialist website Flightradar 24, the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, resumed its route after several hours on the ground. However, according to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Protasevich is not one of the passengers. The plane then landed in Vilnius without any major problems.

The Belarusian Security Committee (KGB) has added Protasevich and another founder of the opposition portal Nexta, Stepan Putilo, to its list of people who were involved in terrorist attacks in November 2020.

The presidential elections on August 9, 2020 in Belarus, in which Alexander Lukashenko received a new term in office, sparked protests for several months. The president, who has been in power since 1994, won 80.1 percent of the vote, compared with 10.1 percent for opposition Svetlana Tijanovskaya, according to the official vote.

The Belarusian opposition denounced massive fraud and called for re-election, an option that Lukashenko completely ruled out. Several countries, including the United States, members of the European Union, the United Kingdom and Ukraine, did not recognize these elections. For their part, Russia and China, among other things, considered the voting results to be valid.

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