Tag Archives: Roman Protasevich

EU bans Belarus flights

Brussels 07.06.2021 The Council on Juin 4 has decided to strengthen the existing restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus by introducing a ban on the overflight of EU airspace and on access to EU airports by Belarusian carriers of all kinds. (Image above: illustration).

EU member states will therefore be required to deny permission to land in, take off from or overfly their territories to any aircraft operated by Belarusian air carriers, including as a marketing carrier.

Today’s decision follows up on the European Council conclusions of 24 and 25 May 2021, in which EU heads of state and government strongly condemned the unlawful forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on 23 May 2021 endangering aviation safety.

The conclusions also condemned the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega, and called on the Council to adopt the necessary measures, including additional listings of persons and entities on the basis of the relevant sanctions framework, and further targeted economic sanctions.

“We renew our call in the strongest terms to release all political prisoners in Belarus” the president of the EU Council Charles Michel wrote in his Twitter micro blog.

Further sanctions on entities and individuals following rapidly in response to the interception of a passenger jet by Belarus, EU leaders on demanded the release of opposition activist Roman Protasevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega, Russian citizen, and called for a barrage of new sanctions against the government of strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

EU governments, which described the incident as state piracy, say they are looking at targeting sectors that play a central role in the Belarus economy, to inflict real punishment on President Alexander Lukashenko. They could include bond sales, the oil sector and potash, a big Belarusian export.

Lisbon: Informal meeting of EU top diplomats

Brussels 27.05.2011 “We are going to discuss about Belarus today, for sure. It is only two days after the [EU] leaders took important decisions on Belarus and we are going to discuss how to implement the decision of going to economic and sectorial sanctions to Belarus. This is going to be an important issue on our meeting.
(Image above: Lisbon, Portugal)

But we are going to talk also about the European Union-Africa Partnership, about the Indo-Pacific Strategy and about the conflicts in our Eastern Neighbourhood, which are affecting our security.

So we have a lot of issues on the table.

We will start by Belarus, the hijacking of the plane and the detention of two passengers is something that is completely unacceptable. And we will start discussing the implementation of the sectorial and economic sanctions.

That is all I can tell you. Keep in mind: Indo-Pacific, European Union-Africa partnership, Belarus and the conflicts in our Eastern Partnership [region].

Also, during the lunch, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Jordan [Ayman Safadi] will join us and we will take stock of the situation in the Middle East, especially the situation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine after the ceasefire”.

EU Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich) hold an informal meeting, on 27 May 2021, in Lisbon. The meeting is chaired by Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Hamas denies Minsk allegations

Brussels 25.05.2021 Palestinian radical movement denies accusations in involvement to Ryanair bomb threat.
Palestinian radical movement Hamas dismissed the Belarusian authorities’ statement on its possible link to the incident with a Ryanair jet, which made an emergency landing in Minsk on May 23 over a reported bomb threat, Reuters reports. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the group “has nothing to do with that completely.”

“We don’t resort to these methods, which could be the doing of some suspicious parties that aim to demonize Hamas and foil the state of world sympathy with our Palestinian people and their legitimate resistance,” the Hamas spokesman was quoted by the news agency as saying.

A Vilnius-bound Ryanair flight that took off from Athens was forced to make an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport on Sunday after a reported bomb threat. The plane landed safely and no bomb was found onboard. Roman Protasevich, one of the co-founders of the Nexta Telegram channel, which was recognized as extremist in Belarus, was among the passengers. Protasevich, currently living in Lithuania and wanted in Belarus, was detained after the airliner had landed in the Belarusian capital. The plane left Minsk and continued on to Vilnius late on Sunday, May 23.

Belarus: EU bans flights

25.05.2021 European Council strongly condemns the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May 2021 endangering aviation safety, and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.

The European Council:
– demands the immediate release of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega and that their freedom of movement be guaranteed;

– calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization to urgently investigate this unprecedented and unacceptable incident;
– invites the Council to adopt additional listings of persons and entities as soon as possible on the basis of the relevant sanctions framework;
– calls on the Council to adopt further targeted economic sanctions and invites the High Representative and the Commission to submit proposals without delay to this end;
– calls on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus;
– calls on the Council to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines;
– stands in solidarity with Latvia following the unjustified expulsion of Latvian diplomats.
The European Council will remain seized of the matter.

EU: Belarus Ambassador summoned

Brussels 24.05.2021 Upon request by High Representative Josep Borrell, the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Stefano Sannino, summoned the Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to the European Union, Aleksandr Mikhnevich, to condemn the inadmissible step of the Belarusian authorities, who forced a civilian plane to perform an emergency landing in Minsk and detained its passenger Mr Raman Pratasevich, an independent Belarusian journalist and activist.

Ambassador Mikhnevich was informed of the firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU Member States of the coercive act by which the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew.

Secretary-General Sannino conveyed the EU’s position that the outrageous action by Belarusian authorities constitute another blatant attempt to silence all opposition voices in the country and demanded the immediate release of Mr Pratasevich.

Yesterday’s unacceptable act will be raised at today’s meeting of the European Council. The EU will consider the consequences of these actions, including possible measures against those responsible.

Borrell demands release of Protasevich

Brussels 24.05.2021 Belarus: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 to Minsk on 23 May 2021:

“On 23 May, the Belarusian authorities, in an inadmissible step, forced a civilian plane to perform an emergency landing in Minsk. The plane, owned by an EU company, flying between two EU capitals and carrying more than 100 passengers, was forced to land by a Belarusian military aircraft.

“One of the flight passengers, Mr Raman Pratasevich, an independent journalist from Belarus, was retained by the Belarusian authorities and prevented from boarding the plane at the Minsk airport to its original destination. This is yet another blatant attempt by the Belarusian authorities to silence all opposition voices.

“We call for the immediate release of Mr Pratasevich.

“In carrying out this coercive act, the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew. An international investigation into this incident must be carried out to ascertain any breach of international aviation rules.

“This situation will be raised at the upcoming meeting of the European Council. The EU will consider the consequences of this action, including taking measures against those responsible”.

Opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, was traveling by commercial airline from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force landing by a fighter jet MiG29. The flight, on Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

Protasevich is a co-founder and a former editor of the NEXTA online channel on the social media platform Telegram, which has become a popular communication medium for Lukashenko’s opponents to share information and organise demonstrations against the government.

The journalist fled the Belarus in 2019, fearing arrest, and imprisonment, but he has continued to criticise Lukashenko’s regime while living in exile in Lithuania, so much so that he was charged in absentia with public disorder and social hatred in November last year.

As a teenager, Protasevich became a dissident, first drawing scrutiny from law enforcement. He was expelled from a prestigious school for participating in a protest rally in 2011 and later was expelled from the journalism program of the Minsk State University.

The government’s main security agency in Belarus, called the KGB, placed Protasevich’s name on a list of terrorists. If he is accused and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.

The charges of inciting public disorder and social hatred carry a punishment of more than 12 years in prison.

Belarus: Borrell demands investigation

Brussels 24.05.2021 Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell called for an international investigation after Belarus forced a Ryanair passenger jet to land in Minsk, in an apparent effort to arrest an activist journalist.
“In carrying out this coercive act, the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew,” Borrell said in a statement issued on Monday, May 24, the following day after the incident.

“An international investigation into this incident must be carried out to ascertain any breach of international aviation rules,” the statement went on.

The Belarusian Transport Ministry on Monday announced it had set up a commission to carry out its own investigation into the forced landing and would publish the results soon, according to a report by the Russian RIA news agency.

EU to discuss incident at summit
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said EU leaders will discuss the incident at an EU summit beginning on Monday, adding that the affair would not remain “without consequences.”

Michel called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release the detained passenger – the 26-year-old journalist Roman Protasevich who worked for Poland-based online news service NEXTA, which broadcast footage of protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) last year during presidential elections mass protests.

An EU spokesman said the leaders would discuss “possible sanctions” on Belarus. High-level officials in the country have already been sanctioned by the bloc over the brutal repression of the opposition, protesters and journalists following disputed elections in August 2020. More than 34,000 people have been arrested in the country since August, and thousands have been brutally mistreated.

Protasevich was traveling by commercial airline RyanAir from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force sent a fighter jet. The flight, on Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted and escorted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

Protasevich was returning to Vilnius from an economic conference in Greece with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Greek officials said.

The flight, which had been carrying some 170 passengers, should have taken about three hours. As it approached the border between Belarus and Lithuania, a MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept it.

Lukashenko, who is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” personally ordered the fighter jet MiG29 to escort the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport after a bomb threat alert, his press service said. According to the statement, Lukashenko, an ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, gave an “unequivocal order” to “make the plane do a U-turn and land.”