Monday briefing: Outrage over Belarus ‘hijack’ of Ryanair plane – The Guardian

Top story: calls to widen action on Lukashenko

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories this morning.

Belarus has been accused of “terrorism” after it forced a Ryanair flight to make an emergency landing in Minsk in order to arrest one of the passengers, an exiled opposition blogger critical of the country’s authoritarian president. Roman Protasevich, who is accused of organising last year’s protests against Alexander Lukashenko’s brutal regime, was detained on Sunday after his flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted after the crew was told by Belarus air traffic controllers that there might be a bomb on board. Minsk confirmed that Lukashenko ordered his military to scramble a Mig-29 fighter to escort the plane. In a statement, Ryanair said the closest airport was Minsk and that the situation had been “out of its hands”. The plane was over Belarusian airspace when it was diverted but was closer to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, than Minsk, flight data shows.

The United States last night joined the international outcry against what the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki called a “hijacking”. He accused Lukashenko of a “reprehensible act of state terrorism”. He said he would demand new sanctions against Belarus at a European Council meeting scheduled for Monday, while Dominic Raab, the UK foreign secretary, said the incident would have “serious implications” for Belarus. Protasevich had been living in Poland but travelled to Athens to cover a visit there by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former Belarusian presidential candidate.


Rape case failures – Fewer than one in 60 rape cases recorded by the police last year resulted in a suspect being charged, according to analysis of Home Office figures. There were 52,210 rapes recorded by police in England and Wales in 2020, but only 843 resulted in a charge or a summons. The figures come amid expectation that a long-awaited end-to-end review by the government into how rape is investigated and prosecuted could be published next month.


Dom’s day is coming – Dominic Cummings has raised the stakes ahead of his Commons select committee appearance on Wednesday by claiming that the government’s initial Covid policy was to aim for herd immunity. Despite denials led by Priti Patel yesterday, the stage is set for a potentially explosive testimony by Boris Johnson’s former top adviser about the pandemic response. Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, said yesterday that the possibility of restrictions being eased in England on 21 June was “looking good” despite concerns about the variant first detected in India. As part of attempts to increase the number of people self-isolating, people in nine badly affected areas of England will be offered places to stay away from home if they live in crowded households. A survey has found that more than half of children are playing out less with their friends than before the pandemic, while researchers say sniffer dogs can detect Covid on a human in a matter of seconds. Countries in south-east Asia that previously dealt well with the pandemic, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, are racing to contain new outbreaks amid a lack of vaccines. Follow this and other developments across the world at our live blog.


Sasha Johnson
Photograph: PA Video/PA

BLM activist shot – The British Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson is in a critical condition in hospital after being shot in the head in south London. The incident happened in the early hours of Sunday morning, her Taking the Initiative party said on social media. The group said it followed “numerous death threats” against 27-year-old Johnson, who rose to prominence during last year’s BLM protests.


Filling time – People are being told to wait for three years for an NHS dentist appointment and others are being removed from practice lists for not making appointments sooner, according to a damning report into the state of dentistry in England. Healthwatch England’s study also says that some patients have appointments cancelled midway through treatment and that others are unable to even get on to waiting lists. It says, however, that some were told private care would be available within a week.


Chequers mates – Boris Johnson is to marry fiancee Carrie Symonds next July after sending save-the-date cards to friends, according to reports. The couple have been engaged since 2019 but wedding plans were put on hold by the pandemic. Chequers is favourite to host the ceremony, but the Sun says the location will remain secret. It will be the prime minister’s third marriage, while it is Symonds’ first.

Today in Focus podcast: the pandemic scam artists

When Rose got an email about a missed parcel, she thought nothing of arranging a new delivery – a mistake that would ultimately cost her thousands. The Guardian’s money editor, Hilary Osborne, reveals the scale of a lucrative new scam.

Today in Focus

Pandemic scam artists

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Lunchtime read: My favourite Bob Dylan track

Dylan in 1965: ‘Like being around Shakespeare’
Dylan in 1965: ‘Like being around Shakespeare’ Photograph: Val Wilmer/Redferns

With Bob Dylan turning 80, Dave Simpson has interviewed a range of artists to ask them to talk about their favourite song by the master singer-songwriter. Mick Jagger picks the “wonderful” Desolation Row, Suzanne Vega goes for Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall (“still filled with power”), while Gillian Welch reckons that Ballad of a Thin Man shows that experiencing Dylan releasing his early records in real time “must have been like being around when Shakespeare was creating new plays”.

Sport

In front of howling, euphoric fans at Kiawah Island, Phil Mickelson strode into the record books after his US PGA Championship victory saw him become the oldest golfer ever to win a major. At the end of turbulent Premier League season, the top four places ended in the hands of its four biggest and richest clubs. Leicester gave their all but missed out after a 4-2 defeat to Tottenham handed a Champions League place to Chelsea, despite the Blues’ 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa, while Liverpool secured third place thanks to goals from Sadio Mané in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Wolves have apologised to Rio Ferdinand after a supporter was arrested having made a racist gesture towards the former England defender during Manchester United’s 2-1 win at Molineux.

Max Verstappen’s win at the Monaco Grand Prix is unlikely to have stirred the soul of Formula One fans, yet the Dutchman’s victory is the tonic the title fight required. On a night billed as a dress-rehearsal for the women’s 100m Olympic final in Tokyo, Dina Asher-Smith proved a compelling starring act with victory against a strong field. Victor Campenaerts won the 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia, a bumpy, 147km-ride from Grado as the Colombian Egan Bernal retained the maglia rosa. And Barney Curley, the architect of several of the turf’s greatest betting coups, has died at the age of 81.

Business

Britain’s biggest fund manager, Legal & General Investment Management, has piled pressure on Shell after joining a shareholder rebellion over the company’s carbon-cutting plans, saying that they lack credibility. The government is being urged to use the environment bill going through parliament to ban the export of plastic waste, invest in a domestic recycling industry and set a binding target for plastic reduction. The FTSE100 is set to lift 0.2% this morning while the pound is $1.414 and €1.161.

The papers

Guardian front page, Monday 24 May 2021
Photograph: The Guardian

Guardian leads with “Just 1.6% of rape cases lead to a charge, figures reveal”, while the FT prefers “Belarus arrests opposition activist after forcing flight to land in Minsk”. The Telegraph says “Cancer crisis ‘risks replacing pandemic’”, and the Mail and Express both have the headline “The dentist will see you in three years”. In other post-pandemic news, the Sun scoops the pack with “Boris to marry Carrie”.

The Mirror says “100,000 Brits off on hol to Spain” and the i splashes on news that “Freedom on 21 June is ‘looking good’”. The Times focuses on the Diana interview row – “Culture secretary calls for changes at the BBC” – while the Star goes back to basics with a story about warmer weather to come this bank holiday weekend: “Luvvly bubbly”.

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Monday briefing: Outrage over Belarus ‘hijack’ of Ryanair plane – The Guardian

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