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EU leaders to discuss sanctions on Belarus after plane forced to land in Minsk

24.05.2021 07:40
European Union leaders will discuss possible sanctions against Belarus at their summit in Brussels on Monday, officials said after a Ryanair plane carrying an opposition activist was forced to land in Minsk a day earlier.
Zdjęcie ilustracyjne
Zdjęcie ilustracyjneEPA/STRINGER

Poland’s president and prime minister on Sunday condemned Belarus for diverting the jet to the capital Minsk, where authorities detained opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

"EU leaders will discuss this unprecedented incident tomorrow during the European Council," the Council's chairman Charles Michel said on Sunday.

"I call on Belarus authorities to immediately release the detained passenger and to fully guarantee his rights," he added in a statement.

Michel's statement came after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealed to him to expand the agenda of Monday's summit and discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions on Belarus over the incident, the PAP news agency reported.

Morawiecki denounced the incident as "an unprecedented act of state terrorism."

'Terrorists have to be condemned and prosecuted:' Polish FM

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said in a tweet that "terrorists of all kinds are enemies of humankind, have to be condemned and prosecuted."

Meanwhile, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a Twitter post on Sunday that "the outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences."

She added that "those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned."

"Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately," von der Leyen also tweeted, adding that EU leaders would on Monday discuss what action to take.

US condemns 'forced diversion of flight between two EU states'

US State Secretary Antony Blinken said in a statement that the United States "strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states" and "the subsequent removal and arrest" of a journalist in Minsk.

"We demand his immediate release," Blinken added.

The statement said that the "shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens."

Blinken also said in his statement that initial reports "suggesting the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the plane are deeply concerning and require full investigation."

Protasevich, who co-founded an online opposition news service called NEXTA, was travelling on board a flight heading from Athens to Vilnus on Sunday when the plane was suddenly diverted to the Belarusian capital after an alleged bomb alert.

The Ryanair plane was subsequently escorted to Minsk by a MIG-29 fighter jet.

Roman Protasiewicz podczas protestu w Mińsku w 2017 r. Roman Protasevich during a protest in Minsk in 2017. Photo: PAP/EPA/STRINGER


Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters