The UK, US and Europe have united in condemning the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight so Belarusian authorities could arrest a prominent critic who was onboard.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined European leaders in calling for action after the flight, from Athens to Vilnius in Lithuania was diverted to the Belarus capital, Minsk, after crew were misled into believing there was a bomb onboard.
Despite the fact the plane was closer to Vilnius, it landed in Minsk, escorted by a jet fighter scrambled by the Belarusian Government. Authorities then hauled journalist Roman Protasevich off the flight.
Mr Protasevich’s girlfriend, a Russian citizen, was also removed from the aircraft.
Some European leaders described the action as ‘state terror and kidnapping’, while Secretary of State Blinken called for the immediate release of 26-year-old Mr Protasevich, a critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We are coordinating with our allies. This outlandish action by Lukashenko will have serious implications.”
The European Union is meeting to discuss action today.
EU President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences.
“Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned. Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately.”