EU - Belarus

Ryanair forced diversion by Belarus was 'state piracy': EU commissioner

A Ryanair aircraft, which was carrying Belarusian opposition blogger and activist Roman Protasevich and diverted to Belarus, where authorities detained him, lands at Vilnius Airport in Vilnius, Lithuania May 23, 2021.
A Ryanair aircraft, which was carrying Belarusian opposition blogger and activist Roman Protasevich and diverted to Belarus, where authorities detained him, lands at Vilnius Airport in Vilnius, Lithuania May 23, 2021. REUTERS - ANDRIUS SYTAS

The diversion of a Ryanair flight by Belarus last week was an act of "state piracy", EU commissioner Thierry Breton has said after a meeting with some of the passengers in Lithuania.

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"It is an unacceptable event. There has been a hijack, not just of an EU plane with European passengers, but a hijack of European values and that we will not tolerate," he said.

The Athens to Vilnius flight on 23 May was forced to land in Minsk and dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested, causing a global outcry.

Europe "has been under attack with this act of state piracy. We will not leave this unpunished," Breton said, adding that the EU was working on additional economic sanctions on Belarus.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya during a visit to Estonia on Monday discussed possible EU economic sanctions with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Belarusian President Alexander "Lukashenko has brought Belarus on a path to self-destruction for the sake of personal power and glory," she said at a joint press conference with Kaljulaid.

"His regime is now a threat to regional and European security," she said.

Tikhanovskaya and Kaljulaid were both dressed in white and there were white and red flowers on display -- the colours of the former Belarusian flag which is now used by the opposition.

 

More Air France flights delayed

Two more Air France flights to Moscow were delayed on Monday after Russia withheld clearance for the passenger planes to fly, the RIA news agency reported.

France's main carrier was forced to cancel two Paris-Moscow flights last week after receiving no Russian clearance for flight plans skirting the territory.

Russia's federal aviation agency Rosaviatsiya told airlines that changes to routes from Europe to Russia due to a political row over Belarus may result in longer clearance times.

The European Union has urged its airlines to avoid Belarus amid outrage over the forced landing of the Ryanair jet.

Russia has said it will defend Belarus and help it if the EU imposes sanctions.

(with newswires)

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