EU leaders agree on sanctions in Belarus following journalist’s arrest | News in Europe

The bloc agreed to ban Belarus from its airspace among other sanctions following the forced diversion of a jet and the arrest of an opposition journalist.

European Union leaders have agreed on a range of sanctions against Belarus, including a ban on the use of the 27-country bloc’s airspace and airports amid anger for the forced diversion of a passenger jet flying between the two. EU countries to arrest an opposition speaker. .

In what EU leaders called a brutal “hijacking” of the plane of Irish carrier Ryanair that flew from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday, they demanded on Monday the immediate release of Roman Protasevich, a chief critic. on the authority of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

EU leaders also decided to slap the individual consent of the officials involved in the operation, and called on the International Civil Aviation Organization to begin an investigation into what they saw as a failed move and what some call “state terrorism”.

Summit decisions will be acted upon as soon as legally permitted.

In a video released Monday, Protasevich said he cooperated with authorities and “confessed” to allegations of organizing protests.

Speaking in a video broadcast on state TV channels, Protasevich said, “I am in Detention Center no 1 in Minsk. I can say that I have no health problems, including my heart or other organs. ”

The 26-year-old wore a black hoodie and sat behind a table in a textless room with a pack of cigarettes by his side.

He rubbed his hands as he made the statement and some dark marks could be seen on his forehead.

“The conduct of my employees is correct as much as possible and in accordance with the law. I continue to cooperate with investigators and declare that there is organized mass unrest in the city of Minsk,” he said.

The comments were immediately dismissed by his allies as made under persistence.

“This is how Raman sees under physical and moral coercion. I demand the immediate release of Raman and all political prisoners,” Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Thiskanouskaya wrote in Twitter in English, using Belarusian literature in its name.

Prisoner detention

The Belarusian interior minister had earlier confirmed the arrest of Protasevich, saying he had been taken to prison.

Minsk also dismissed rumors on social media that Protasevich had been hospitalized and said authorities were unaware of any health problems.

The statement, published by the Telegram messaging service, was the first given by authorities about Protasevich’s location since he was detained on Sunday at Minsk airport when his plane was forced to make an emergency landing there.

The blogger’s trial began on Sunday when a Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet crashed to prevent Ryanair’s flight from Greece to Lithuania in response to the alleged bomb threat, and escort it to Minsk.

Ryanair said Belarus’s air traffic control had alerted its crew of a “potential security threat on board” and ordered them to move the plane to the nearest airport, Minsk. On landing, Belarusian authorities took Protasevich.

The EU and the United States imposed several financial sanctions against Minsk last year, with no effect on the conduct of President Alexander Lukashenko, who resisted widespread demonstrations against his rule after a controversial election.

Lukashenko denies electoral fraud. Since the disputed vote, authorities have rounded up thousands of his opponents, all of whom are key opposition figures now imprisoned or exiled.

Belarus says it acted in response to a false bomb threat written in the name of the militant group Hamas. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied that his group had any knowledge or connection to the matter.

Belarus says its ground controllers provide flight guidance but it has not been ordered to land. State media said the intervention was ordered by Lukashenko himself.

Russia, which has provided assurance, diplomatic and financial support to Lukashenko, has accused the West of hypocrisy.

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