European Union to cut air links with Belarus following Ryanair flight diversion incident

European Union to cut air links with Belarus following Ryanair flight diversion incident”

A 30-second video of Protasevich was broadcast by state television late Monday, in which he confirmed that he was in prison in Minsk and "confessed" to charges of organising mass unrest.

The main opposition candidate in the last election, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who left the country immediately after the vote under official pressure, said she urged the move to suspend Belarus' membership in the ICAO and Interpol.

The 26-year-old journalist and activist was arrested Sunday after Belarusian flight controllers told the crew of a Ryanair jetliner he was aboard that there was a bomb threat against the flight and ordered it to land.

The 66-year-old leader has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for over two decades and responded to the demonstrations with a violent crackdown, detaining thousands, many of whom reported torture and abuse in custody.

The European Council summit, which starts with a dinner Monday night and continues Tuesday, was called before the interception took place and is meant to cover a range of topics including COVID-19 and climate change.

European leaders have described Protasevich's arrest as a state-sponsored hijacking and kidnapping, and on Monday called on airlines not to fly over Belarus, while barring Belarusian airlines from EU airspace and airports. "As a pariah country, Belarus will find it much more hard to fend off the Kremlin demands for the introduction of a single currency, the deployment of air bases and access to lucrative Belarusian economic assets". Polish carrier LOT and Baltic airlines have begun bypassing Belarus. They reiterated this claim in Tuesday's statement. Its Transport Ministry said Tuesday it has invited worldwide aviation, USA and European Union authorities to investigate the diversion.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has deemed the event "state hijacking" and Ireland and France have characterized it as piracy amid mounting global outrage.

The statement by Garneau and Alghabra condemned the arrest of Protasevich and called it "a blatant attack on media freedom with serious implications on the rights of freedom of expression".

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A video posted on a pro-Lukashenko channel on the Telegram messaging app on Tuesday evening showed a young woman sitting in a chair who said she was Sofia Sapega.

The spokesperson for the U.N.'s human rights office, Rupert Colville, said Protasevich's appearance likely was not voluntary and that he seemed to have bruising to his face, although it was hard to tell from the video.

Separately, the Belarus Embassy in Ottawa said it would shut down on September 1, after 24 years of operation.

"This astonishing episode constitutes a new phase in the Belarusian authorities campaign of repression against journalists and civil society in general", Colville said. He added that he was giving evidence to investigators about organizing mass disturbances.

'We will not tolerate that they play Russian roulette with the lives of innocent civilians, ' he added.

Putsila said that the group relies on police protection and undertake "all the possible safety measures to minimize threats and carry out our everyday work".

That period corresponds with the outbreak of mass anti-government protests that rocked ex-Soviet Belarus after a disputed presidential election in August past year. More than 34,000 people have been arrested in Belarus since then, and thousands beaten.

The transport ministry also said Tuesday that representatives of global agencies were invited for "further consideration of the circumstances" of the incident.

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