Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Belarus’ determination to intercept a Ryanair flight and arrest an opposition journalist on board Sunday as a “shocking act” by the nation’s management that threatened press freedom and the lives of these on board.
“This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens,” Blinken mentioned in a press release. “Initial reports suggesting the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the plane are deeply concerning and require full investigation.”
Blinken’s feedback got here simply hours after Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a fighter jet to intercept the airplane, which was carrying Roman Protasevich. Protasevich, 26, is a co-founder of a outstanding opposition information service and has been dwelling in Lithuania in exile for the final a number of years after the service was declared extremist for organizing protests in opposition to the federal government. He was touring from Greece to his house when the airplane flew into Belarusian airspace.
Lukashenko has taken aggressive steps to curb any dissent following the nation’s disputed election final yr, together with shuttering most unbiased media shops. Belarusian press companies mentioned the airplane was diverted after a bomb menace, however no bomb was discovered on the plane.
The Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an arm of the United Nations, mentioned it was “strongly concerned” concerning the incident and mentioned the diversion may very well be in contravention of worldwide guidelines:
Blinken added that the Biden administration would proceed to face by journalists worldwide.
“Independent media are an essential pillar supporting the rule of law and a vital component of a democratic society,” he mentioned. “We stand with the Belarusian people in their aspirations for a free, democratic and prosperous future and support their call for the regime to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
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