Belarus hijacks flight and arrests dissident, EU Council discusses sanctions. Gentiloni: ‘Europe responds’. Farnesina convenes ambassador

The arrest of Roman Protasevich it is an international case. The story involving the former director of the channel Telegram Nexta as well as political opponent of Lukashenko, arrested in Minsk after the Belarusian authorities hijacked the Ryanair flight from Athens and directed to Vilnius, is expanding from hour to hour on the diplomatic level, with the Belarus that yes defends from the attacks of the West that “politicizes the situation” e Moscow who takes the defense of the historical ally, opening a new rift with USA is EU after the recent clashes over the case of Alexei Navalny. The EU Council meeting tonight has the discussion on possible at the top of the agenda sanctions in Minsk, while the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, calls for a response from Europe. There Farnesina, as well as other European countries, summoned the Belarusian ambassador.

“Received a threat from Hamas” – The authorities Belarusian they had justified their intervention and landing by talking about a bomb alarm on board: an alarm that, said the director of the aviation department of the Ministry of Transport, Artem Sikorsky, came from Hamas and arrived by mail. “We, the soldiers of Hamas, we ask that Israel cease fire a Gaza and we ask the EU to renounce its support for Israel. Participants in the Delphi Economic Forum return home on Flight 4978. A bomb has been placed on this plane. If you don’t meet our demands, it will explode above Vilnius“, Read the email communicated by Sikorsky. This, however, was not followed by the discovery of any bomb, but only the arrest of Protasevich. Igor Goloub, commander of the air force, also added that the landing decision “was taken by the crew commander without external interference”.

A version of events very far from the one given on Irish radio Newstalk by the CEO of Ryanair Michael O’Leary, which denounced a “state kidnapping” by Minsk and added that there were service agents aboard the plane safety Belarusian (Fsb). “It seems that the intention of the authorities was to release a Journalist and the person traveling with him, ”he explained. “We also believe that agents from the airport have landed Fsb“, he added. And less than 24 hours after the case broke out Protasevich, a flight Lufthansa for Frankfurt from the airport of Minsk an imminent terrorist act was suspended due to the threat. “The domestic airport email address received a message from unidentified people about intending to commit a act of terrorism on Lufthansa flight LH1487 on the route Minsk-Frankfurt. The flight was supposed to take off at 2:20 pm. Boarding on this flight has been suspended, ”the statement read.

EU discusses new sanctions – From the United States, the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken label the Belarusian action of the hijacking as a “brazen and shocking” act and insists on the need for an “international investigation”, while tomorrow the ambassadors of the Born they will discuss the case. In Europe, instead, where the EU Council is called in the evening to discuss new sanctions against Minsk, the German Foreign Ministry summoned the Belarusian ambassador because “the explanations received so far from government Belarusian for forced landing are absurd and not credible ”. “The first item on the agenda of the European Council is Belarus, what happened yesterday is one international scandal, we work on sanctions that are on the summit table “, said the president of the European Council, Charles Michel. While the Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, said he hoped for “a strong response to what happened yesterday”, an episode “truly unprecedented, a shameful and incredible fact to which the EU must give an answer. I expect the maximum possible response because a precedent of this kind cannot be established ”.

There Farnesina instead, he summoned the Belarusian ambassador to Rome to express his strong condemnation of Italy, while the France already evokes the opportunity to ban Belarusian airspace and from Brussels the Ppe asks “the establishment of a no-fly zone on Belarus, the adoption of the fourth package of sanctions and the immediate and unconditional release of Pratasevich“. “The hijacking of an EU flight by the regime of Lukashenko it is a violation of international law and an act of state terrorism. The limit is exceeded! Our governments must act now ”, reads the note from the European People’s Party. There Lithuania on the other hand, he announced that he had banned all flights from crossing Belarusian airspace, as well as airlines Air Baltic is Sas they will avoid until new provisions. Also the Minister of Transport of Boris Johnson, Grant Shapps, has asked British airlines not to enter Belarusian airspace, while the London government has summoned the Belarusian ambassador and is considering sanctions against Minsk, as reported by the foreign minister, Dominic Raab.

The Belarus-Moscow axis against criticism from the West – The government of Minsk distances itself from the condemnations that have come so far from Brussels is Washington – convinced that the hijacking justified by the threat of a bomb was actually aimed at arresting the opponent on board – and defends his actions which, declares the Foreign Ministry, “fully respected the established international rules”, adding that the case of the flight Ryanair traveling from Athens is Vilnius it should be viewed from the point of view of the security that has been provided and that in West they politicize the situation and come to hasty conclusions. The government also invited “the International Air Transport Association, the European Aviation Safety Agency and interested aviation authorities to participate in an impartial investigation into the incident that took place. Minsk is ready to provide all impartial information “, said the director of the aviation department at the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Artyom Sikorsky.

Next to the Belarus takes sides promptly Moscow, his historical ally: “It is shocking that the West considers the accident in Belarusian airspace ‘shocking’,” said the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry. Maria Zakharova on his Facebook page, noting that Western countries have in the past been guilty of “kidnappings, landings forced is illegal arrests ”. For its part, the Belarus she also said she was willing to receive experts and to demonstrate all materials related to the landing of the flight Ryanair to Minsk. “I have no doubt that we can guarantee full transparency in this matter, the experts will be received and all materials will be demonstrated, if necessary, in order to exclude the innuendo“Said the spokesman of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Anatoly Glaz in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

Passengers arrested on the flight – Besides Protasevich his partner was also arrested in Minsk yesterday Sophia Sapega, a 23-year-old Russian citizen who is attending a master’s degree at the European University of Humanities in Vilnius as part of the International and EU Law program. She too ended up in handcuffs and was always on board the same hijacked flight by a Belarusian Air Force MIG-29. Protasevich is Sapega however, they are not the only two passengers dropped off in Minsk and stopped by the authorities: a member of the Presidium of the Belarusian Opposition Coordination Council, the former Minister of Culture Pavel Latushko, quoted by Interfax, explains that in all there are 4 passengers of Russian nationality who did not continue the journey to Vilnius after the hijacking. Protasevich is of Belarusian nationality. Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, however, explains that the Kremlin he has no information on the alleged detention of “a Russian citizen or Russian citizens”.

What Protasevich risks – In September 2020 Nexta and other associated channels had been declared “extremist” and outlawed in Belarus. Protasevich and colleague Stsyapan Putsila had been registered in the list of “persons involved in acts of terrorism“And charged with” inciting mass unrest “,” inciting social hatred “and” serious violations of public order “, crimes for which they risk up to 15 years in prison. Protasevich, wanted for organizing last year’s protests against Lukashenko, since 2019 lives in exile in Poland, Country that rejected the extradition request of Minsk.

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