EU leaders agreed to chop air hyperlinks with Belarus on Monday, as chief Alexander Lukashenko’s regime paraded a dissident journalist arrested after his flight was pressured to land in Minsk.
Strongman Lukashenko sparked worldwide outrage by dispatching a fighter jet Sunday to intercept a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying needed reporter Roman Protasevich, 26, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.
European leaders assembly in Brussels hit again by agreeing to ban Belarusian airways from the bloc’s airspace and urged EU-based carriers to not fly over its airspace.
The bloc additionally mentioned it will undertake additional “targeted economic sanctions” in opposition to the Belarusian authorities so as to add to the 88 regime figures and 7 firms already on a blacklist over a crackdown on opposition.
The transfer got here as Belarusian state tv broadcast a 30-second video of Protasevich, who had been residing between Lithuania and Poland, confirming that he was in jail in Minsk and “confessing” to expenses of organising mass unrest.
The footage confirmed Protasevich — who might face 15 years in jail — with darkish markings seen on his brow, saying he was being handled “according to the law”.
“This is how (Roman) looks under physical and moral pressure,” exiled Belarusian opposition chief Svetlana Tikhanovskaya wrote on Twitter.
The EU leaders demanded the “immediate release” of Protasevich and Sapega, the conclusions of the summit mentioned.
The pressured touchdown of an airliner flying between EU nations has refocused consideration on the festering political disaster in Belarus, the place Lukashenko has unleashed waves of brutal repression to cling to energy.
Western leaders accused Belarusian authorities of basically hijacking a European airplane, whereas Minsk claimed it had reacted to safe the flight after receiving a bomb risk.
“It is outrageous behaviour and Lukashenko and his regime have to understand that this will have severe consequences,” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen mentioned.
The EU’s push to punish Minsk adopted bulletins from some nations and airways that they have been reducing hyperlinks to Belarus.
London additionally mentioned it had issued directions for British plane to keep away from Belarusian airspace.
Ukraine mentioned it will halt direct flights between the 2 international locations and over Belarus, whereas Scandinavian airline SAS, Germany’s Lufthansa and Latvia-based regional airline Air Baltic mentioned they might be avoiding Belarusian airspace.
In a bid to intensify strain on Lukashenko, Berlin, London and Brussels summoned the Belarusian ambassadors.
Belarus has insisted it acted legally over the grounding of the Ryanair jet, accusing the West of constructing “unfounded accusations” for political causes.
Its air pressure chief mentioned the airplane’s captain had determined to land in Belarus “without outside interference” and that the pilot might have chosen to go to Ukraine or Poland.
A senior Belarusian transport official mentioned the authorities obtained a letter claiming to be from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas threatening to explode the airplane over Vilnius until the EU renounced assist for Israel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed Minsk’s explanations as “completely implausible” and the EU demanded a probe by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The ICAO, a UN company, is to fulfill on Thursday.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres backed requires a “full, transparent and independent investigation into this disturbing incident”.
NATO slammed a “serious and dangerous incident” and mentioned envoys from the army alliance have been to debate it on Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken known as it “a shocking act”.
The EU and different Western international locations have already imposed a variety of sanctions on Lukashenko’s authorities over its crackdown on opposition demonstrations that adopted his disputed re-election to a sixth time period final August.
But Lukashenko has remained defiant with assist from his fundamental backer Russia.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab raised the potential for that Russian had backed the operation.
“It’s very difficult to believe that this kind of action could have been taken without at least the acquiescence of the authorities in Moscow,” he advised parliament.
But Moscow has dismissed the outrage within the West.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov mentioned Minsk was taking an “absolutely reasonable approach” whereas ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mocked the Western indignation.
“We are shocked that the West calls the incident in Belarusian air space ‘shocking,'” Zakharova mentioned on Facebook, accusing Western nations of “kidnappings, forced landings and illegal arrests”.
Together with co-founder Stepan Putilo, Protasevich till lately ran the Nexta channel on messaging app Telegram, which helped organise the protests that have been the largest problem to Lukashenko’s 26-year rule.
With shut to 2 million subscribers on Telegram, Nexta Live and its sister channel Nexta are distinguished opposition channels and helped mobilise protesters in Belarus.
Protasevich and Putilo have been added to Belarus’s checklist of “individuals involved in terrorist activity” final 12 months.
The spiralling tensions round Belarus have been in proof as Minsk expelled your complete workers of Latvia’s embassy, together with the ambassador, after accusing Latvian authorities of getting used an opposition flag at an ice hockey championship.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is printed from a syndicated feed.)