MAY 24, 2021
European leaders condemned the forced landing of a Ryanair plane that was carrying a dissident journalist in Belarus, likening the act to “state piracy.”
As Reuters reports, foreign ministers from multiple nations came out strongly against the actions of Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who deployed a fighter jet to intercept the plane carrying Roman Protasevich.
“This was effectively aviation piracy, state sponsored,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said, echoing the sentiments of several of his counterparts in Europe.
“It is dangerous, reckless, and naturally the EU is going to act,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, according to Reuters.
Protasevich, 26, who founded a channel on the Telegram messaging app to spread information for opponents of Lukashenko, was arrested after his plane was diverted on a flight between Athens and Vilnius, Lithuania to Belarus’s capital city of Minsk.
In response to this diversion, European leaders threatened to limit air traffic over Belarus as well as target its ground transport. Reuters notes that Belarus lies along the path of some important north-south European routes as well important routes to Asia.
The French presidency said a request had been sent to the Montreal-based United Nations group, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to suspend international flights over Belarusian air space. However, Reuters notes that the ICAO does not have regulatory powers and the European Union does not have authority over flights landing and taking off from Belarus.
“ICAO is strongly concerned by the apparent forced landing of a Ryanair flight and its passengers, which could be in contravention of the Chicago Convention,” the ICAO said in a statement to Reuters. “We look forward to more information being officially confirmed by the countries and operators concerned.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the forced landing on Sunday.
“The United States once again condemns the Lukashenka regime’s ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists. We stand with the Belarusian people in their aspirations for a free, democratic, and prosperous future and support their call for the regime to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Blinken said in a statement, calling for the “immediate release” of Protasevich.