Biden calls Belarus plane diversion an ‘outrageous incident’

President Biden has directed his workforce to draft up potential measures to reply to Belarus’ forced landing of a passenger jet to arrest an opposition journalist, he revealed in a brand new assertion — calling the motion an “outrageous incident.”

The assertion, launched Monday night, got here in response to rising worldwide outrage over the diversion of a Ryanair flight to arrest Raman Pratasevich, an opposition determine in Belarus and a passenger on board, in what Biden referred to as “a direct affront to international norms.”

“I join the many calls for an international investigation to ascertain the complete facts of the case,” the commander-in-chief acknowledged.

“I welcome the news that the European Union has called for targeted economic sanctions and other measures, and have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations.”

Hours earlier than Biden’s assertion was launched, the EU introduced that it will impose extra sanctions on the embattled Eastern European nation whereas calling on its airways to keep away from Belarusian airspace.

President Joe Biden.
President Joe Biden reacted to Belarus’ actions as “a direct affront to international norms.”
Getty Images

EU leaders additionally licensed efforts to enact a ban on Belarusian airways from utilizing worldwide airspace.

The flight, which was initially going from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, was ordered by Belarusian forces to land whereas in its airspace, particularly within the capital metropolis of Minsk.

Authorities claimed the pressured touchdown was as a result of a “security alert,” later clarified as a bomb risk.

However, the touchdown seems to have been organized for the only goal of arresting Pratasevich, who ought to have been secure to journey in that airspace.

Belarus police detain journalist Raman Pratasevich.
Belarus police detain journalist Raman Pratasevich.

President Alexander Lukashenko, broadly referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” has dominated Belarus for 26 years.

Lukashenko personally ordered the touchdown and despatched a MiG-29 fighter jet as much as intimidate the plane, the presidential press service mentioned.

Pratasevich based the Nexta channel on the Telegram app, which Belarus declared “extremist” after customers coordinated protests towards Lukashenko final yr.

Protests erupted not like ever earlier than towards Lukashenko in 2020, after his presidential re-election was marred by accusations of fraud and rigging.

Protesters hold up paper planes during a demonstration demanding freedom for Belarus opposition activist Raman Pratasevich in Warsaw, Poland.
Protesters in Warsaw, Poland, demand freedom for Raman Pratasevich.

While he had confronted electoral challengers earlier than, none have been as profitable as 38-year-old Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Lukashenko was formally declared the winner, however Tsikhanouskaya maintains that she obtained not less than 60 p.c of the vote.

She has since fled to Lithuania for political safety.

Tsikhanouskaya and Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke by telephone on Monday, throughout which, the White House mentioned, he pledged that the US would maintain Lukashenko and his regime “to account,” although not elaborating.

Raman Pratasevich.
A video of Raman Pratasevich was launched following his arrest the place he seemed to be studying from a script.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary referred to as the occasion “a state-sponsored hijacking,” which he alleged was directed by Russian brokers.

“This is a case of state-sponsored hijacking, state-sponsored piracy. Our crew did a phenomenal job to get that aircraft and almost all the passengers out of Minsk after six hours,” O’Leary told Politico in an interview Sunday.

In his Monday assertion, Biden additionally remarked on the brand new video launched of Pratasevich after his arrest, which was proven on Belarusian state tv that night.

“This outrageous incident and the video Mr. Pratasevich appears to have made under duress are shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press,” Biden mentioned.

Journalists and Belarusian activists wait to see passengers of the RyanAir plane.
Journalists and Belarusian activists wait at an airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, the place Raman Pratasevich was speculated to land.

Wearing a black hooded sweatshirt along with his fingers held collectively whereas sitting at a wood desk, Pratasevich confirmed his identification earlier than saying that he was in good well being.

The opposition determine, who seemed to be studying from a script, mentioned that his remedy whereas in Belarusian custody was “maximally correct and according to law.”

He additionally mentioned he was offering proof to authorities on the “mass disturbances” he helped manage final yr.

With Post wires

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