European leaders threatened to block Belarusian airspace and restrict transport on Monday after a Beirut passenger plane was forced to land in Minsk as Belarus crossed its airspace. Western countries have condemned the incident as “state piracy.”
Western concern and harsh condemnation by Belarus of a plane flying from Athens to Vilnius in Minsk allegedly led to a military escort and the arrest of a dissident journalist.
Countries are calling on Minsk to release 26-year-old Roman Protasevich. Protasevich is a journalist for one of the few independent media outlets in Belarus.
“This is state-sponsored aviation piracy,” said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Cowney. His statement reflects an assessment made by other European leaders. The Swedish foreign minister said it was “dangerous, reckless” and that “the EU will take action”.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to suspend international flights over Belarusian airspace and to consider banning Belarus, the Belarusian state-owned airline, from using European airports. European countries are also considering hitherto unknown measures to curb road transport.
Latvian Airlines was the first to announce that it would no longer use Belarusian airspace for flights. Lithuanian Transport Minister Marius Skoudis said that the Polish “Lot” and the Hungarian “Viser” will also act, noting that flights to and from the Lithuanian airport starting at midnight will bypass Belarusian air space.
What the outcome of these steps will be is unknown. The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization has no regulatory function, and the European Union has no control over Belarusian airspace. The previous round of EU sanctions did not stop the Belarusian leader from putting pressure on the opposition.
EU member states are now considering how to respond to the incident. The Lithuanian Prime Minister has said that Vilnius is calling on partners to cancel international flights in Belarusian airspace.
Belarus said they were responding to the bomb threat and that is why they called for the plane to land in Minsk. However, this turned out to be a false alarm. State media say the decision was made by President Alexander Lukashenko himself.
Russia, which provides Lukashenko’s security, diplomatic and financial assistance, has accused the West of bribery and recalled a case in 2013 when a Bolivian president’s plane was flown from Moscow to Austria at the request of the United States. Was present.
Sanctions on Belarus
The European Union and the United States have already imposed several rounds of financial sanctions on Minsk following last year’s presidential election to quell a wave of protests and crack down on the opposition. However, these sanctions did not affect Lukashenko’s behavior.
Lukashenko denies election fraud. He detained thousands of opponents and demonstrators amid a wave of protests. Most of the opposition leaders have been arrested or have left the country.
There are many important air routes connecting the airspace of Belarus, connecting Europe and Asia. The International Civil Aviation Organization, which is the UN agency, said it was “very concerned” that the incident might violate the 1944 Chicago Convention on Global Aviation.
Avoiding Belarusian airspace will cost airlines money and time. Therefore, it is still unknown whether Belarus will join other European countries. The Dutch “KLM” said that they have studied the risks and have not changed their air practice so far.
“We, like other European airlines, are waiting for the recommendations of the European authorities and NATO,” said Michael O’Leary, head of Rainier. He described the incident as a state-sponsored kidnapping.
He noted that he thinks security agents were on board and they stayed in Minsk. This implies that the operation was carried out using spies on the ground in Greece.
Given the security cooperation between Minsk and Moscow, some European politicians have suggested that Russia also played a role in the incident.
Radoslaw Sikorski, a former Polish foreign minister and now a member of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter: It should be sanctioned. ” He called for a halt to the North Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to supply Russian gas to Germany.
The European Union is already working to impose a fourth set of sanctions on Belarus. Previous sanctions only included officials who were banned from traveling and doing business in Europe and the United States.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. Vilnius University said their student, 23-year-old Sofia Sapega, was traveling with Protasevich and was also detained. After Protasevich was arrested, Rainier flight No. 4978 was allowed to fly to Vilnius.
One of the passengers on board, after the plane landed in Vilnius, said that when the pilot informed the passengers about the landing in Minsk, Protasevich got up, realized that it was related to him and handed over his computer and phone to his companion. Another passenger said Protasevich was “very scared.”
Protasevich, administrator of Nexta Live, a Telegram social network that covered the demonstrations. He and his colleague Stiapan Puzilla left the country last year for fear of being arrested after their channel was declared an “extremist” organization by Minsk. In November 2020, an investigation was launched against them in Belarus on charges of inciting mass unrest and disturbing social order.