Russian Federation backs Belarus after plane diversion to Minsk, Pratasevich detention

Russian Federation backs Belarus after plane diversion to Minsk, Pratasevich detention”

Some airlines have also announced plans to avoid flying over Belarus.

On Sunday, the plane flying from Athens to Vilnius had to make an emergency landing in Minsk over a bomb threat, which later turned out to be false.

The arrest: When the plane landed, authorities arrested 26-year-old Raman Pratasevich, who has organized mass demonstrations against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. There are fears among supporters of Mr Protasevich that he may have been "tortured".

The country's interior ministry says he is being held in a jail, adding he has not complained of ill health.

"He said that he was treated lawfully, but he's clearly beaten and under pressure".

He added the country's ambassador in London had been summoned to the Foreign Office.

A Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to escort the plane in a brazen show of force by Mr Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for over a quarter-century.

One Lithuanian official told Reuters that the three passengers who disembarked included two Belarusian citizens and one Greek citizen.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said it was a "state-sponsored hijacking" and claimed agents from Russia's KGB were also on board.

He said he did not witness Pratasevich and his girlfriend being arrested as he had moved along the line when the incident occured.

He told Newstalk: "It was clear it appears that the intent of the Russian authorities was to remove a journalist and his travelling companion".

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Flight FR4978 took off from Athens and was nearing its final destination of Vilnius, Lithuania when it was suddenly forced to divert to Minsk. "We see no evidence to support that claim". If charged and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.

"It represents a danger to civilian flights everywhere".

"It constitutes a brazen affront to global peace and security by the regime".

"Mr Lukashenko's regime must be held to account for such reckless and unsafe behaviour".

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, urged the government to call for the suspension of energy pipelines in Belarus.

Responding, Mr Raab said on Nord Stream and "other possibilities": "We will consider and consult with our partners and see what further action they are willing to take as well".

She added: "Unless the consequences are swift, robust and co-ordinated it will create an extraordinarily risky precedent that will put journalists, dissidents and activists from the United Kingdom or anywhere else at risk every time they board a plane".

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, using language that was echoed by a number of other European Union countries, said: "This was effectively aviation piracy, state sponsored".

"That [safety of flights over Belarus] is exactly what needs to be assessed right now and we, both in terms of the global bodies we are part of and, as, as an administration with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] are looking at that". We demand an worldwide investigation and are coordinating with our partners on next steps.

"And I think that the incident has to be thoroughly investigated by the global aviation authorities".

The EU, along with the United States, Britain and Canada had already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on nearly 90 Belarusian officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, following an August election that opponents and the West say was a sham.

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