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CHK_Westweighsactionafter Belarus diverts aircraft, arrests reporter

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European Union considers upping sanctions as UK and US name for worldwide probe over diversion of Ryanair flight.

Belarus’ forced diversion of a aircraft travelling throughout the European Union with a purpose to arrest a outstanding opposition journalist has widened a rift between Western powers and Minsk, prompting requires additional sanctions and a world probe over the incident.

Minsk pressured the Ryanair flight from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, to land in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, on Sunday after it scrambled a fighter jet, allegedly in response to a bomb risk.

On its touchdown, Belarusian authorities took journalist Roman Protasevich, who was on board, into custody.

Protasevich is needed in Belarus on “extremism” costs and stands accused of organising mass riots in opposition to the nation’s longtime President Alexander Lukashenko, in addition to inciting social hatred – allegations he denies.

Sunday’s incident led to international outrage.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda accused Minsk of enterprise a “state-sponsored terror act” and referred to as for “critical sanctions” in opposition to Lukashenko’s authorities, whereas the EU’s govt arm labelled the transfer a “hijacking”.

However Russia, an ally of Lukashenko, accused Western powers of hypocrisy over their remarks.

“It’s stunning that the West calls the incident in Belarusian airspace ‘stunning’,” International Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Fb.

“Both (they) ought to be shocked by … the pressured (touchdown) in Austria of the Bolivian president’s aircraft on the request of the USA … Or (they) shouldn’t be shocked by related behaviour by others.”

‘State-sponsored piracy’

The aircraft diversion is anticipated to high the agenda at a two-day summit of EU leaders, who had been united of their condemnation of Lukashenko, that begins Monday.

EU overseas coverage chief Josep Borrell condemned the “inadmissible step” as “one more blatant try by the Belarusian authorities to silence all opposition voices”.

Borrell additionally indicated toughened EU sanctions in opposition to Belarus had been incoming.

The USA and former EU member the UK referred to as for the quick launch of Protasevich and demanded the council of the Worldwide Civil Aviation Group investigated the incident.

Ryanair Chief Govt Michael O’Leary stated Sunday’s incident was “state-sponsored piracy”.

“It seems the intent of the authorities was to take away a journalist and his travelling companion,” he informed Irish radio station Newstalk on Sunday.

‘Unfounded accusations’

The Belarusian overseas ministry stated on Monday that Minsk could be able to let specialists go to if wanted for an investigation into Sunday’s incident, Russia’s RIA information company reported.

Nevertheless, it insisted authorities acted legally after they diverted the aircraft and accused Western nations of constructing unfounded allegations in opposition to Minsk for political causes.

“There isn’t a doubt that the actions of our competent authorities … absolutely met established worldwide guidelines,” Belarusian overseas ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz stated in a press release.

“Unfounded accusations are being made.”

The event comes amid tensions in Belarus, which noticed unprecedented mass anti-government protests after a disputed election in August final yr that handed Lukashenko a sixth presidential time period.

Police launched an instantaneous crackdown on the demonstrations, reportedly detaining 1000’s of individuals and beating 1000’s extra who had taken to the streets.

The EU and the US have beforehand sanctioned Lukashenko and dozens of officers and businessmen tied to his authorities over its actions.

Though the protests died down throughout the winter, Minsk has continued to take motion in opposition to the nation’s opposition and impartial media.

Final week, 11 employees members of the TUT.by information web site, an impartial outlet, had been detained by police.

The web site is at present blocked in Belarus.