Belarus fighter jet forces plane to land, political opponent arrested

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
28,388
960
113
Belarus fighter jet forces plane to land, political opponent arrested
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Andrey Ostroukh and Andrius Sytas
Publishing date:May 23, 2021 • 2 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
A Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS is parked on Minsk International Airport's apron in Minsk, Sunday, May 23, 2021.
A Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS is parked on Minsk International Airport's apron in Minsk, Sunday, May 23, 2021. PHOTO BY AFP /AFP via Getty Images
Article content
MOSCOW — Belarusian authorities scrambled a fighter jet and flagged what turned out to be a false bomb alert to force a Ryanair plane to land on Sunday and then detained an opposition-minded journalist who was on board, drawing criticism from across Europe.

In the dramatic incident, described by one EU leader as a hijacking, a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet escorted a Ryanair-operated passenger plane flying from Athens to Lithuania. The plane was suddenly diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where authorities detained journalist Roman Protasevich.

BACK TO REAL LIFE: Mississauga Mayor Crombie tries out spray pad
Trackerdslogo
Protasevich had his head in his hands and was shaking when he realized the flight was headed for Minsk, Lithuania’s Delfi news outlet said, quoting a passenger. Later, as he was led away, according to the report, he remarked: “I’ll get the death penalty here.” Reuters could not verify the report.

Data from the flightradar24.com website showed the plane was diverted just two minutes before it was due to cross into Lithuanian airspace. After several hours in Minsk, the plane took off and finally landed in Vilnius where Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte was waiting to meet the passengers.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
EU member state Lithuania, where Protasevich is based, urged the European Union and NATO to respond. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a Tweet that the incident was serious and dangerous and required an international investigation.


Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
Poland’s prime minister called it a “reprehensible act of state terrorism” and said he was pushing for a summit of EU leaders this week to discuss immediate sanctions against Minsk.

“I condemn in the strongest terms the detention of Roman Protasevich by Belarusian authorities, after a Ryanair passenger aircraft was hijacked,” Mateusz Morawiecki said on Twitter.


Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
A spokesperson for European Council Chairman Charles Michel said EU leaders would discuss “consequences and possible sanctions” over the incident. Michel in a separate statement called for Protasevich to be released.

Last year, Protasevich was an editor for Poland-based Nexta Live, which played an important role in broadcasting huge opposition protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko via the Telegram messenger app.

Germany called for an immediate explanation of the incident, and Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU’s executive European Commission, said Belarus’s action was “utterly unacceptable.”


British foreign minister Dominic Raab said there would be serious implications for the “outlandish action.”

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who like Protasevich now operates from Lithuania, called on the U.N. aviation agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to kick Belarus out.

ICAO said it was “strongly concerned” over the incident which might have breached the Chicago Convention, underpinning civil aviation. Global airline industry body IATA also called for a full investigation.

The incident is certain to worsen already dire relations between the West and Belarus, which has been tightly controlled since 1994 by President Lukashenko.

Opponents accuse him of rigging a presidential election in his own favour last year and of then cracking down violently on the opposition. He denies electoral fraud.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content

Ryanair said in a statement that the plane’s crew was notified by Belarus of a potential security threat on board and were instructed to divert to the nearest airport, Minsk.

The plane landed safely, passengers were offloaded and security checks were made by local authorities, it said, saying it expected the aircraft to resume its journey later on Sunday.

Protasevich, 26, worked for an online opposition news service NEXTA, a Telegram channel that broadcast footage of mass protests against Lukashenko last year at a time when it was hard for foreign media to do so.

Protasevich, who now works for a different Telegram channel called Belamova and who describes himself on Twitter ironically as the first “journalist-terrorist” in history, is based in Lithuania.

He is wanted in Belarus on extremism charges and stands accused of organizing mass riots and of inciting social hatred, allegations he denies.

Belarusian news agency BelTA reported that Lukashenko had personally ordered the warplane to escort the Ryanair plane to Minsk. No explosives were found, it said.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called for an international response.

“I call on NATO and EU allies to immediately react to the threat posed to international civil aviation by the Belarus regime. The international community must take immediate steps that this does not repeat,” Nauseda said.

Lithuanian presidential adviser Asta Skaisgiryte said the operation to force the plane carrying around 170 people from 12 countries to land seemed to be pre-planned.

The Belarusian department for organized crime control reported that Protasevich had been detained before deleting the statement from its Telegram channel.

Around 35,000 people have been detained in Belarus since August, human rights groups say. Dozens have received jail terms. Authorities say that more than 1,000 criminal cases have been launched.
 
  • Angry
Reactions: taxslave

bob the dog

Electoral Member
Aug 14, 2020
707
516
93
Sorry I did not see this thread when I started the other one. Please delete, combine, puree or what ever else might suit your fancy on this fine holiday morning.
 
  • Like
Reactions: taxslave

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
28,388
960
113
Belarus faces sanctions over 'state piracy', airlines to shun it
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Gabriela Baczynska and Matthias Williams
Publishing date:May 24, 2021 • 2 hours ago • 4 minute read • 8 Comments
European Council President Charles Michel gives a press briefing ahead of a Special EU summit in Brussels, on Monday, May 24, 2021. EU leaders will discuss foreign policy issues among them strategic debate on Russia and the incident involving the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus.
European Council President Charles Michel gives a press briefing ahead of a Special EU summit in Brussels, on Monday, May 24, 2021. EU leaders will discuss foreign policy issues among them strategic debate on Russia and the incident involving the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus. PHOTO BY OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL /AFP via Getty Images
Article content
BRUSSELS/KYIV — Several airlines said on Monday they would avoid Belarusian airspace after Belarus scrambled a warplane to intercept a Ryanair jetliner and arrest a dissident journalist in an act denounced by Western powers as “state piracy.”

European Union leaders meeting on Monday evening were set to ban Belarussian airlines from their bloc’s airspace and call on EU-based carriers to avoid flying over the former Soviet republic, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.


The leaders of the 27 member states will also consider widening the list of Belarussian individuals they already sanction and call on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to urgently investigate Sunday’s incident, when Belarus forced a Ryanair plane to land.

“The reaction should be swift and be severe,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo told journalists ahead of the EU summit that began at 17:00 GMT.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, using language that was echoed by a number of other EU countries, said: “This was effectively aviation piracy, state sponsored.”

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the incident and called for a full investigation.

The three Baltic states said Belarusian airspace should be declared “unsafe” and – as regional tensions mounted – Belarus and Latvia said they were expelling each other’s ambassadors.

Some airlines and countries did not wait for guidance on how to respond to the flight from Greece to Lithuania being diverted as it flew through Belarusian air space.

Britain said it was issuing a notice to instruct British airlines to cease flights over Belarus and that it would suspend the air permit for Belarus’s national carrier Belavia with immediate effect.


Latvian airline airBaltic and Scandinavian airline SAS said they would stop using Belarusian airspace, and Cyprus-registered Avia Solutions said its Lithuania-based airlines would follow suit.

Lithuania’s transport minister, Marius Skuodis, said Poland’s LOT and Hungarian airline Wizzair would also not use Belarusian airspace and said all flights to and from Lithuanian airports must from midnight GMT avoid Belarusian airspace.

Countries also called for the release of 26-year-old Roman Protasevich, who was detained when the plane was forced to land in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
His social media feed from exile has been one of the last remaining independent outlets for news about Belarus since a mass crackdown on dissent last year. Sophia Sapega, a 23-year-old student traveling with him, was also detained.

NEXTA, a news service where Protasevich worked before setting up his own widely followed blog, ran an interview with his mother, who said that as soon as she heard reports of a bomb scare on a flight, she knew it was a plot to capture him.


“I just want to say that my son is simply a hero, simply a hero,” Natalia Protasevich said, weeping. “I truly hope that the international community will wake up for him.”

Belarus says it acted in response to a bomb threat on the flight, which turned out to be a false alarm. It said on Monday its ground controllers had given guidance to the flight but had not ordered it to land. State media said the intervention was ordered personally by President Alexander Lukashenko.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who referred to the incident as a state-sponsored hijacking, said he believed security agents had been on the flight.

Lithuanian authorities said five passengers never arrived, suggesting three others besides detainees Protasevich and Sapega had disembarked in Minsk.

Russia, which has provided security, diplomatic and financial backing to Lukashenko, accused the West of hypocrisy.

Given the security ties between Minsk and Moscow, some European politicians openly speculated whether Russia may have played a role, which would escalate an incident involving a small European pariah state into one involving a superpower.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
EU summit chairman Charles Michel said the incident was “an international scandal,” and the statement drafted for the meeting said new sanctions would be imposed as soon as possible.

EU countries could ban Belavia from European airports and was considering other unspecified measures regarding ground transport links, an EU official said.

Still, the options for Western retaliation appear limited.

The Montreal-based ICAO has no regulatory power, and the EU has no authority over flights taking off and landing in Belarus or flying over its airspace, apart from direct flights that originate or land in Europe.

The EU and the United States imposed several rounds of financial sanctions against Minsk last year, which had no effect on the behaviour of Lukashenko, who withstood mass demonstrations against his rule after a disputed election.

Lukashenko denies election fraud. Since the disputed vote, authorities rounded up thousands of his opponents, with all major opposition figures now in jail or exile.

Belarus lies on the flight path of routes within Europe and between Europe and Asia.

Skirting Belarus would slow flights down and cost airlines money, and apart from the few that announced action it was not clear whether others would do so unless required.
 

B00Mer

True North Strong & Free
Sep 6, 2008
38,391
3,246
113
Canada
www.DFWClassifieds.com
More talk, more posturing.. nothing will get done and the guy will be killed..

So what do you want man.. the Jackal back just killing people like President Alexander Lukashenko, Nicolás Maduro can you name a few more.

carlos.jpg
 

Blackleaf

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 9, 2004
46,047
1,277
113
There was probably more chance of the Ryanair plane shooting down the Belarusian fighter jet.
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
28,388
960
113
Detained Belarusian blogger appears in video, opposition cries foul
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Publishing date:May 24, 2021 • 1 hour ago • 1 minute read • Join the conversation
A woman displays a sign during a protest against the detention of Belarusian blogger, Roman Protasevich, who was detained as a Ryanair plane that he was on, en route from Athens to Vilnius, was forced to land in Minsk on Sunday, in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May 24, 2021.
A woman displays a sign during a protest against the detention of Belarusian blogger, Roman Protasevich, who was detained as a Ryanair plane that he was on, en route from Athens to Vilnius, was forced to land in Minsk on Sunday, in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May 24, 2021. PHOTO BY DAWID ZUCHOWICZ / AGENCJA GAZETA /REUTERS
Article content
MOSCOW — In a video posted online on Monday, Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich, detained when a Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk, says he is in good health and acknowledges having played a role in organizing mass disturbances in Minsk last year.

The comments were immediately dismissed by his allies as made under duress.


“This is how Raman looks under physical and moral pressure. I demand the immediate release of Raman and all political prisoners,” a leader of Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana Thiskanouskaya, wrote on Twitter in English, using the Belarusian spelling of his name.

Appearing on several channels of the Telegram messaging app, Protasevich, wearing a dark sweatshirt and with his hands tightly clasped in front of him, says he is in a pre-trial detention facility in Minsk and denies having heart problems reported by some social media.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content

He also appears to have a small black spot on his forehead.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, 66, has faced the biggest challenge of his nearly 27-year-old rule from protesters who took to the streets after he was declared the winner of an election last year they said was rigged.

About 35,000 people have been detained since the start of regular demonstrations in August 2020. Lukashenko denies electoral fraud and has accused the West of sponsoring the protests.
1621891379582.png
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
28,388
960
113
Latvia removes IIHF's banner in dispute over Belarus flag swap
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Publishing date:May 25, 2021 • 21 hours ago • 1 minute read • Join the conversation
A historical white-red-white flag of Belarus flies next to national flags of nations participating in the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships in Riga, Latvia, Monday, May 24, 2021.
A historical white-red-white flag of Belarus flies next to national flags of nations participating in the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships in Riga, Latvia, Monday, May 24, 2021. PHOTO BY JANIS LAIZANS /REUTERS
Article content
MOSCOW — Latvia showed its support for the Belarusian opposition on Tuesday by opting to stop flying the flag of ice hockey’s governing body at the world championship in Riga, rather than remove a flag used by opponents of Belarus’s veteran leader.

“We have to pick sides – a people striving for freedom or a dictator,” Riga Mayor Martins Stakis wrote on Twitter.


Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content

Belarus forced a jetliner heading from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk on Sunday and arrested a dissident journalist who was on board.

Latvian authorities condemned the action, which Belarusian state media said was ordered by President Alexander Lukashenko, and on Monday removed the Belarus state flag from a display of flags in Riga representing nations in the world championship.

It was replaced with a historical Belarusian red and white flag, which is now the symbol of the opposition.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) denounced the move as a “political message” and urged the Riga mayor’s office to reconsider its decision to remove the Belarusian flag.

It asked Latvia to remove the IIHF flag and the world championship flag bearing sports’ governing body’s name from the same display, and Belarus expelled all Latvian diplomats and demanded an apology.

“We will proceed with removing IIHF flags,” Stakis wrote.

Minsk had been scheduled to co-host the tournament with Riga but was stripped of the right to do so following unrest after a presidential election the opposition said was rigged and because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
28,388
960
113
Airlines re-route to avoid Belarus, opposition says journalist beaten
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Matthias Williams and Andrius Sytas
Publishing date:May 25, 2021 • 18 hours ago • 4 minute read • Join the conversation
Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich, detained when a Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk, is seen in a pre-trial detention facility, as he says, in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, May 24, 2021 in this still image taken from video.
Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich, detained when a Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk, is seen in a pre-trial detention facility, as he says, in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, May 24, 2021 in this still image taken from video. PHOTO BY TELEGRAM@ZHELTYESLIVY / REUTERS TV /REUTERS
Article content
KYIV/VILNIUS — Airlines re-routed flights to avoid Belarus’s airspace on Tuesday and Belarusian planes faced a possible ban from Europe, as international outrage mounted over Minsk forcing down a jetliner and arresting a dissident journalist on board.

Western nations accused Belarus of hijacking and piracy over the interception of the Ryanair plane as it crossed the country on a flight from Greece to Lithuania, and diplomats said France, Ireland and Estonia would raise the incident at a private meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday.


“The behaviour of the Belarus regime is outrageous, illegal, and completely unacceptable … we also condemn this kind of dangerous interference in civil aviation,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

A video released overnight showed 26-year-old Roman Protasevich – who was pulled from the passenger plane after Belarus scrambled a warplane to escort it to Minsk on Sunday – confessing to having organized anti-government demonstrations.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the video was “concerning.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko must pay a “bitter price” for detaining Protasevich.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said the footage showed Protasevich had been tortured.

“He said that he was treated lawfully, but he’s clearly beaten and under pressure. There is no doubt that he was tortured. He was taken hostage,” she told a news conference in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

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 pro-democracy opponents of Lukashenko since last year.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content

Lukashenko, whose opponents accuse him of rigging an August 2020 election, has so far shrugged off Western sanctions, which mostly consist of barring various officials from traveling or doing business in the United States and 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 the United States did not believe Moscow had played any role in it.

Belarusian state media have reported that Lukashenko personally ordered the flight to be intercepted. Belarus says it was responding to a bomb scare that later proved 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 at Minsk.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content

The transcript, which Reuters could not independently verify, differs from excerpts previously released by Belarus state TV, which had suggested the pilot had asked to land in Minsk, rather than that the controller had advised him to do so.

Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sagega, 23, were arrested when the plane landed. Three other people also disembarked the flight in Minsk, suspected by Western countries of being spies involved in the operation.

In the video released overnight, Protasevich can be seen seated at a desk in a dark hooded sweatshirt.

“I can state that I don’t have any health issues, including diseases of the heart or any other organs. Police officers are treating me properly and according to the law,” he says, adding that he had “confessed to organizing mass protests in Minsk.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
Sagega’s mother Anna Dudich told Reuters that her daughter, a student and a Russian citizen who is originally from Belarus, had steered clear of politics, but that she feared for her health and safety in detention.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

A woman displays a sign during a protest against the detention of Belarusian blogger, Roman Protasevich, who was detained as a Ryanair plane that he was on, en route from Athens to Vilnius, was forced to land in Minsk on Sunday, in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May 24, 2021.
Detained Belarusian blogger appears in video, opposition cries foul
Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich, detained when a Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk, is seen in a pre-trial detention facility in Minsk, Belarus May 24, 2021 in this still image taken from video.
Belarus faces sanctions over ‘state piracy’, airlines to shun it
A Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS is parked on Minsk International Airport's apron in Minsk, Sunday, May 23, 2021.
Belarus fighter jet forces plane to land, political opponent arrested

“My hopes are now probably based on a miracle and on the knowledge that my daughter is definitely not guilty of anything,” Dudich said. “She simply showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Russia’s foreign ministry said Sagega may also face criminal charges.

In response to Minsk’s actions, the European air traffic control agency, Eurocontrol, recommended that EU and British carriers that fly over Belarus should re-route via the Baltic states.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
Britain also said it was banning Belarusian airlines from entering its airspace.

European Union leaders at a summit on Monday had called for airlines based in the 27-member bloc to halt flights over Belarusian airspace, which is along a major corridor connecting Europe and Asia and earns hard currency from overflight rights.

Lufthansa, KLM, SAS, Air France, LOT and Singapore Airlines were among carriers that announced they would stop flying over Belarus.

Belgium’s Charles Michel, who chairs EU summits, tweeted “Europe in action,” with a picture of a flight tracker map of the continent showing no planes flying over Belarus.

EU leaders also directed officials to draw up unspecified new sanctions against Belarus, and to work out a way to ban Belarusian airlines from the bloc’s skies.

Belarus’s neighbour, Ukraine, announced a ban on flights to or from Belarus, and on its own airlines using Belarusian airspace.

“If we let this go, tomorrow Alexander Lukashenko will go further and do something even more arrogant, more cruel,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement.
 

Twin_Moose

Hall of Fame Member
Apr 17, 2017
16,886
3,019
113
Twin Moose Creek

Belarus points to Hamas bomb threat in plane diversion, Hamas rejects claim


Belarus said on Monday that a false bomb threat that prompted a passenger plane to be diverted to Minsk where authorities arrested a journalist on board, was written in the name of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Authorities released what they said was a text of the bomb alert as officials sought to defuse a mounting international outcry over what Western capitals have denounced as an act of "state piracy". read more

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied his group had any knowledge or connection.

Minsk scrambled a warplane to escort a Ryanair flight on Sunday, flagging a bomb alert that proved false once the plane had made an unscheduled landing in Belarus where authorities arrested Roman Protasevich, a journalist critical of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.....More
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
28,388
960
113
Belarus leader says detained journalist was plotting 'bloody rebellion'
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova
Publishing date:May 26, 2021 • 1 day ago • 4 minute read • Join the conversation
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivers a speech during a meeting with parliamentarians, members of the Constitutional Commission and representatives of public administration bodies, in Minsk, Belarus May 26, 2021.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivers a speech during a meeting with parliamentarians, members of the Constitutional Commission and representatives of public administration bodies, in Minsk, Belarus May 26, 2021. PHOTO BY PRESS SERVICE OF THE PRESIDENT O /via REUTERS
Article content
MOSCOW — Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Wednesday a journalist pulled off a plane that was forced to land in Minsk had been plotting a rebellion, and he accused the West of waging a hybrid war against him.

In his first public remarks since a Belarusian warplane intercepted a Ryanair flight on Sunday between European Union members Greece and Lithuania, he showed no hint of backing down from confrontation with countries that accuse him of air piracy.

“As we predicted, our ill-wishers from outside the country and from inside the country changed their methods of attack on the state,” Lukashenko told parliament.

“They have crossed many red lines and have abandoned common sense and human morals,” he said, referring to a “hybrid war” without giving any details.

Belarus has been subject to EU and U.S. sanctions since Lukashenko cracked down on pro-democracy protests after a disputed election last year. But his decision to intercept an international airliner in Belarusian airspace and arrest a 26-year-old dissident journalist has brought vows of much more serious action.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
In his speech to parliament, Lukashenko gave no details of the “bloody rebellion” he accused journalist Roman Protasevich of planning.

Protasevich, whose social media feed from exile had been one of the last remaining independent sources of news about Belarus, was shown on state TV on Monday confessing to organizing demonstrations.

But Belarus opposition figures dismissed the confession, seeing the video as evidence Protasevich had been tortured, an allegation repeated by his mother, Natalia.

“I simply plead with all the international community… please, world, stand up and help, I beg you so much because they will kill him,” she told Polish broadcaster TVN.

Late on Tuesday, state TV broadcast a similar confession video of Sophia Sapega, a 23-year-old student arrested with Protasevich.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
Germany led condemnation of Belarus over the videotapes, which Lukashenko’s opponents said were recorded under coercion.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Belarusian rulers’ practice of parading their prisoners in public with so-called ‘confessions,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Belarus denies it mistreats detainees. Rights groups have documented what they say are hundreds of cases of abuse and forced confessions since last year.


FLIGHTS RE-ROUTED

Europe’s aviation regulator issued a bulletin on Wednesday urging all airlines to avoid Belarus airspace for safety reasons, saying the forced diversion of the Ryanair flight had put in question its ability to provide safe skies.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
Western governments have told their airlines to re-route flights to avoid Belarus’s airspace and have announced plans to ban Belarusian planes. The European Union says other unspecified sanctions are also in the works.

Credit rating agency S&P Global signaled it could downgrade Belarus’ credit rating if Western governments impose stronger economic sanctions.

Lukashenko said he would respond harshly to any sanctions. His prime minister said the country could ban some imports and restrict transit in response, without giving details.

Landlocked Belarus is located between its ally Russia and the EU, and some Russian oil and gas flows through it. Last year, it retaliated for sanctions by limiting some oil export traffic through a port in Lithuania.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
In his remarks to parliament, Lukashenko, 66, said street protests were no longer possible in Belarus. Most known opposition figures are now in jail or exile.

In power since 1994, Lukashenko faced weeks of mass protests after he was declared the winner of a presidential election that his opponents said was rigged. The protests lost momentum after thousands of arrests in a police crackdown.

Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said the opposition was now preparing a new phase of active protests.

“There’s nothing more to wait for – we have to stop the terror once and for all,” she said.


ATTEMPTS TO ISOLATE BELARUS

Western powers are seeking ways to increase the isolation of Lukashenko, who has previously shrugged off Western sanctions, which mostly consisted of placing officials on black lists. The West is wary of upsetting Moscow, which regards Belarus as a strategically important buffer.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
U.S. President Joe Biden will discuss the incident with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit next month but the White House said it does not believe Moscow played any role in the incident.

Belarusian authorities on Tuesday released a transcript of a conversation between the Ryanair plane and an air traffic controller. In it, the controller tells the pilot of a bomb threat and advises him to land in Minsk. The pilot repeatedly questions the source of the information before agreeing to divert the plane.

The transcript, which Reuters could not independently verify, differed from excerpts released by Belarus state TV, which reported that the pilot had asked to land in Minsk, rather than that the controller advised him to do so.

The Ryanair plane remains in the Lithuanian capital’s airport, where it flew after Minsk, while data is collected form it, the Lithuanian prosecutor’s office said.