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EU leaders advise carriers against flying over Belarus amid rising tensions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Police officers detain journalist Roman Pratasevich attempting to cover a rally in Minsk, Belarus in 2017. Photo: EPA-EFE

Tensions are growing between the West and Belarus after Minsk scrambled a fighter jet to divert the flight path of a Lithuania bound Ryanair passenger plane, under the guise of a bomb threat, and force it to land late last month.

Minutes after the landing, Belarusian authorities arrested 26 year old opposition blogger Raman Pratasevich and his fiance who were on the plane.

The move infuriated the European Union and the United States.

Belarus used its control over its airspace in order to perpetrate a state hijacking. Therefore the safety and security of flights, through Belarus airspace can no longer be trusted.

Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of European Commission

During a summit in Brussels EU leaders urged carriers based in the block to avoid flying over Belarus. In addition, they have agreed to ban Belarusian airlines from using the blocks airspace and airports.

The 27 nation bloc has slammed more economic sanctions on Belarus, the EU says it has indefinitely frozen a 3 billion euro investment package earmarked for the country; Minsk's move has been slammed by some EU leaders as "state piracy".

Essentially Belarus is very highly aligned to Russia and that is the choice that they made. While this doesn't sit well with US imperialist efforts who want to see all, essentially all countries in the world, allied to them, and subservient to them.

This is part of a larger US strategy to try to encircle Russia within Europe, as we know that the current Ukrainian crisis is going on right now, where NATO allied forces are going to be fighting Russian aligned and full on Russian forces, probably sometime in mid June when the permafrost finally melts and it's more advantageous to move large vehicles across Ukraine, Belarus is allied to Russia.

Jason Unruhe, Analyst and Politician Commentator

Belarus said it requested the emergency landing, due to a suspected bomb threat on the plane. The airliner then left Minsk for its destination in Lithuania shortly afterwards.

In a video broadcast by Belarusian state media Raman Pratasevich said he was in good health and cooperating with the country's officials.

Hello, my name is Raman Pratasevich. I was detained yesterday at the Minsk National Airport. I'm now in the Minsk detention centre, number one. I can say that I don't have any health issues, including heart or any other organs disease; police officers treat me properly, and according to the law. Also I now continue to cooperate with the investigation and give a confession on organizing mass protests in Minsk.

Raman Pratasevich, Belarusian Opposition Blogger

The opposition was quick to reject the statement, arguing that Pratasevich was confessing under duress.

Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, has denied any wrongdoing accusing the west of seeking to provoke unrest in his country.

In a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko said the West is trying to "rock the boat" to cause a new round of protests against his government.

He was referring to the outbreak of protests after the 2020 presidential election, during which his opponent and Western countries accused his government of voter fraud.

President Putin has also warned the West against meddling in Belarusian internal affairs. He also dismissed speculation that Russia participated in diverting the airliner.

This isn't simply someone being targeted by a country for whatever reason, there is a very clear process here; if a person is wanted for a crime and if they pass through the country, then they are going to be stopped. I mean this is not even comparable to say, the Chinese Huawei CFO who is stopped in Canada for a crime that doesn't even exist there.

Jason Unruhe, Analyst and Political Commentator

The recent incident wasn't the first sign of rising tensions between the West and Belarus, which is in a union state with Russia, and it will certainly not be the last such incident.


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