2021.05.24 13:57

Baltic leaders condemn ‘state-backed terror attack’ by Minsk regime

BNS2021.05.24 13:57

The Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian presidents have condemned the forced landing of a Ryanair passenger plane in Minsk on Sunday.

On Monday, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda discussed Sunday’s incident during his remote meeting with Latvian President Egils Levits and Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.

"The Belarusian regime grossly violated international law and risked the lives of more than one hundred people. This state-backed terror attack posed threat to the safety of international civil aviation, and we must respond accordingly," Nausėda said in a statement.

The Lithuanian president urged his Latvian and Estonian counterparts to jointly seek a common EU and NATO response to the actions of the Belarusian regime.

The three Baltic leaders plan to demand the immediate release of Roman Pratusevich.

Read more: Belarus scrambles air force, diverts Vilnius-bound flight to Minsk to arrest dissident

According to the Lithuanian president, the airspace above Belarus should be declared unsafe and planes of this country should not be allowed to enter the EU airspace. An independent international probe into the unprecedented plane hijacking should also be carried out, according to the Office of the Lithuanian President.

The Ryanair flight en route from Athens to Vilnius changed course minutes before crossing into Lithuanian airspace and was diverted to Minsk where it landed on Sunday afternoon.

The airline said the flight made an emergency landing in Minsk after being notified by Belarus' air traffic controllers of "a potential security threat on board" but "nothing untoward was found”.

Belarusian opposition activist, blogger and founder of the Nexta Telegram channel Roman Pratusevich was detained after the plane landed in Minsk, alongside his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen and student of the Vilnius-based European Humanities University (EHU).

Read more: Student of university in Vilnius among detainees on diverted flight

Last year, Belarus put Pratusevich, 26, and Sciapan Pucila, 22, a co-founder of the Nexta channel, on the list of persons engaged in terrorist activity and also declared the channel to be extremist and ordered to block it.

According to Lithuania's authorities, 171 passengers were aboard the Ryanair flight, including 94 Lithuanian, 11 Greek and nine French nationals, and a number of citizens of Belarus, Poland, Romania, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Georgia and other countries.

The flight returned from Minsk to Vilnius on Sunday evening.

Leaders of NATO, the European Commission and some EU member countries have condemned the incident.

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