EU moves to isolate Belarus after the government diverted a flight carrying a Belarusian dissident
- The EU moved to isolate Belarus after the government diverted a flight to arrest a journalist.
- Roman Protasevich was on the Ryanair flight when it landed in Minsk due to a bogus security threat.
- The bloc ordered EU-based airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace and banned Belarusian airlines from its airspace and airports.
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The European Union moved to isolate Belarus in light of the arrest of a journalist who was arrested after the government diverted a Ryanair flight on Sunday.
The EU ordered all EU-based airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace and banned Belarusian airlines from entering EU airspace and landing in its airports. The move was announced Monday during a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels.
Journalist Roman Protasevich was taken into custody after the Lithuania-bound flight he was aboard was grounded in Minsk due to a bogus security threat. Protasevich is a vocal critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who gave an "unequivocal order" to ground the Ryanair jet in Minsk, according to state media.
Protasevich's arrest drew international outrage as EU leaders condemned the forced grounding of the flight and called for the "immediate release" of Protasevich and his partner, Sofia Sapega, who was also escorted off the flight. World leaders also demanded "their freedom of movement be guaranteed."
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Union's European Commission, said the "outrageous and illegal behavior of the regime in Belarus will have consequences."
"Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned," von der Leyen said in a statement on Twitter. "Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately."
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also called the incident an "unprecedented act of state terrorism."
"Hijacking of a civilian plane is an unprecedented act of state terrorism. It cannot go unpunished," Morawiecki said in a statement, adding that he would petition for sanctions against Belarus in light of Protasevich's arrest.
At the Brussels summit, Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, described the incident as "madness," according to a report by The New York Times.
"It's like something out of a very bad movie," Bettel said. "It shows the state of the regime."
EU officials said few raised objections to the move to avoid Belarusian airspace - a rare occurrence as the bloc does not tend to come to a consensus on controversial issues so quickly and easily, The Times reported.
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