Science

Greek national aboard Ryanair flight speaks to Kathimerini

Greek national aboard Ryanair flight speaks to Kathimerini”

At a press conference Artyom Sikorsky, director of the ministry's aviation department, read aloud in Russian a message he claimed had been sent by Hamas to Minsk airport.

BRUSSELS, May 25 ― Western powers prepared to pile sanctions on Belarus and cut off its aviation links yesterday, furious after it scrambled a warplane to intercept a Ryanair aircraft and arrest a dissident journalist, an act one official denounced as "state piracy".

Belarusian state television late on Monday broadcast a 30-second video of Protasevich confirming that he was in prison in Minsk and "confessing" to charges of organising mass unrest.

In the video on the Telegram messaging app, he wore a dark sweatshirt and clasped his hands tightly in front of him.

His allies however say the video was made under pressure from authorities. Polish deputy foreign minister Pawel Jablonski told Reuters by telephone that Protasevich was probably not seriously ill but, citing no evidence beyond what he had seen in the video, said the journalist had "probably" been beaten and tortured.

According to the conclusions of the special European Union summit on Monday, the 27-member bloc strongly "condemned the incident" which "endangered aviation safety" and called on the International Civil Aviation Organization to urgently investigate "this unprecedented and unacceptable incident".

"The United States joins countries around the world in calling for his release, as well as for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners who are being unjustly detained by the Lukashenka regime", Biden said.

Lukashenko and his allies are already under a series of Western sanctions over a brutal crackdown on opposition protests that followed his disputed re-election to a sixth term in August previous year.

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Britain said it was instructing British airlines to cease flights over Belarus and that it would suspend the air permit for Belarus's national carrier, Belavia, with immediate effect. KLM, the Dutch arm of carrier Air France KLM, will temporarily halt flights, Dutch news agency ANP reported. The 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 lies on the flight path of routes within Europe and between Europe and Asia, and skirting Belarus would slow flights down and cost airlines money.

Lukashenko - who scrambled a Belarusian fighter jet to intercept the Ryanair flight - has remained defiant in the face of sanctions with help from his main backer Russian Federation. Lukashenko has denied electoral fraud. Since the disputed vote, authorities rounded up thousands of his opponents, with all major opposition figures now in jail or exile.

"I want to say just that my son - he's a hero".

The rights group Amnesty International said the international community needs to make sure this method of silencing "dissenting voices is never repeated".

A senior Belarusian transport official said the authorities received a letter claiming to be from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas threatening to blow up the plane over Vilnius unless the European Union renounced support for Israel. State media said the intervention was ordered personally by Lukashenko.

Ryanair's CEO, Michael O'Leary, on Monday condemned Belarus' actions, telling the Irish radio station NewsTalk "this was a case of state-sponsored hijacking".

"When it was announced they were going to land in Minsk, Roman stood up, opened the luggage compartment, took luggage and was trying to split things", said a Lithuanian passenger, who gave his name only as Mantas.



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