Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu has called for an international investigation after Belarus forced a commercial flight bound for Lithuania to land in Minsk so that it could arrest a leading opposition activist. The Belarus ambassador has been summoned to the ministry
Some European leaders have already denounced the move to detain Belarus blogger Roman Protasevich as an “act of state terror and kidnapping.”
EU leaders will meet on Monday to discuss what action could be taken against Belarus, for forcing the Ryanair plane to divert during its flight from Athens to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the ‘hijacking must be sanctioned’ ahead of the EU leaders’ meeting.Latvia and Lithuania said the airspace over Belarus should be considered unsafe and Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said it should be closed to all international flights.
The passenger plane flying from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday was forced to do an emergency landing in Minsk after a suspected bomb threat. According to online flight data, the plane was over Belarusian airspace when it diverted course but was closer to Vilnius than Minsk. On its landing, Mr Protasevich was detained.
Romania’s foreign ministry on Sunday appealed for an”urgent” start of an independent international inquiry to determine the circumstances in which the incident occurred. T
A statement said there were no Romanian citizens on the aircraft. „The foreign ministry expresses its concern about the arrest, following the forced landing of the aircraft in Minsk, of a Belarusian journalist on board the plane”, it said..
The 26-year-old blogger worked for Poland-based online news service Nexta, which broadcast footage of mass protests against Belarus Presidemt Alexander Lukashenko last year via the Telegram messenger app at a time when it was hard for foreign media to do so.
Belarus authorities accuse him of organizing mass riots and of inciting social hatred, allegations he denies.
The mass unrest charges against him carry a sentence of up to 15 years.
NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the incident was “:serious and dangerous” and required an international investigation.