Defiant Belarus Defends Diversion Of Plane Carrying Activist
Written by Taiwo Adediran on May 24, 2021
A defiant Belarus on Monday defended its forced diversion of a European plane carrying an opposition activist after the unprecedented move provoked a global outcry and calls for a tough response.
The Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying dissident journalist Roman Protasevich was diverted while in Belarusian airspace on Sunday over a supposed bomb threat.
Accompanied by a Belarusian fighter jet, it landed in the capital Minsk where Protasevich, a 26-year-old who had been living between EU states Poland and Lithuania, was arrested along with his girlfriend.
Accusing strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s regime of essentially hijacking a European plane, Western leaders insisted the move would not go unanswered.
Many in Europe called for tough new sanctions to be agreed at a pre-planned summit on Monday, while Washington denounced the “shocking act” and demanded Protasevich’s release.
In its first official reaction to the incident, Belarus’s foreign ministry insisted the country had acted legally and accused the West of trying to play politics.
“There is no doubt that the actions of our competent authorities… fully met established international rules,” ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said in a statement, accusing the West of “politicising” the situation.
“Unfounded accusations are being made,” he said.