Biden blasts Belarus plane diversion as US vows to hold regime ‘to account’ – New York Post

President Biden has directed his team to draft potential measures to respond to Belarus’ forced landing of a passenger jet to arrest an opposition journalist, he revealed in a new statement — calling the action an “outrageous incident.”

The statement, released Monday evening, came in response to growing international outrage over the diversion of a Ryanair flight to arrest Raman Pratasevich, an opposition figure in Belarus and a passenger on board, in what Biden called “a direct affront to international norms.”

“I join the many calls for an international investigation to ascertain the complete facts of the case,” the commander-in-chief stated.

“I welcome the news that the European Union has called for targeted economic sanctions and other measures, and have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations.”

Hours before Biden’s statement was released, the EU announced that it would impose more sanctions on the embattled Eastern European nation while calling on its airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

President Joe Biden.
President Joe Biden reacted to Belarus’ actions as “a direct affront to international norms.”
Getty Images

EU leaders also authorized efforts to enact a ban on Belarusian airlines from using international airspace.

The flight, which was originally going from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, was ordered by Belarusian forces to land while in its airspace, specifically in the capital city of Minsk.

Authorities claimed the forced landing was due to a “security alert,” later clarified as a bomb threat.

However, the landing appears to have been organized for the sole purpose of arresting Pratasevich, who should have been safe to travel in that airspace.

Belarus police detain journalist Raman Pratasevich.
Belarus police detain journalist Raman Pratasevich.
AP

President Alexander Lukashenko, widely known as “Europe’s last dictator,” has ruled Belarus for 26 years.

Lukashenko personally ordered the landing and sent a MiG-29 fighter jet up to intimidate the plane, the presidential press service said.

Pratasevich founded the Nexta channel on the Telegram app, which Belarus declared “extremist” after users coordinated protests against Lukashenko last year.

Protests erupted unlike ever before against Lukashenko in 2020, after his presidential re-election was marred by accusations of fraud and rigging.

Protesters hold up paper planes during a demonstration demanding freedom for Belarus opposition activist Raman Pratasevich in Warsaw, Poland.
Protesters in Warsaw, Poland, demand freedom for Raman Pratasevich.
AP

While he had faced electoral challengers before, none were as successful as 38-year-old Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Lukashenko was officially declared the winner, but Tsikhanouskaya maintains she received at least 60 percent of the vote.

She has since fled to Lithuania for political protection.

Tsikhanouskaya and Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke by phone Monday, during which, the White House said, he pledged that the US would hold Lukashenko and his regime “to account,” though he didn’t elaborate.

Raman Pratasevich.
A video of Raman Pratasevich was released following his arrest in which he appeared to be reading from a script.
TELEGRAM CHANNEL NEVOLF/AFP via

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary called the event “a state-sponsored hijacking,” which he alleged was directed by Russian agents.

“This is a case of state-sponsored hijacking, state-sponsored piracy. Our crew did a phenomenal job to get that aircraft and almost all the passengers out of Minsk after six hours,” O’Leary told Politico in an interview Sunday.

In his Monday statement, Biden also remarked on the new video released of Pratasevich after his arrest, which was shown on Belarusian state television that evening.

“This outrageous incident and the video Mr. Pratasevich appears to have made under duress are shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press,” Biden said.

Journalists and Belarusian activists wait to see passengers of the RyanAir plane.
Journalists and Belarusian activists wait at an airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Raman Pratasevich was supposed to land.
AP

Wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with his hands held together while sitting at a wooden table, Pratasevich confirmed his identity before saying he was in good health.

The opposition figure, who appeared to be reading from a script, said his treatment while in Belarusian custody was “maximally correct and according to law.”

He also said he was providing evidence to authorities on the “mass disturbances” he helped organize last year.

With Post wires

Sorgente articolo:
Biden blasts Belarus plane diversion as US vows to hold regime ‘to account’ – New York Post

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