The Basics The United States “strongly condemns” Belarus for intercepting a plane between Greece and Lithuania and arresting an on-board activist whose release is requested, its diplomatic chief Antony Blinken said on Sunday, May 23.
The United States “strongly condemns the violent abduction of an escape between two EU member states and the subsequent exfiltration and subsequent arrest of the journalist Roman Protassevich in Minsk. We demand his immediate release,” the US Secretary of State said in a statement. “This shocking act by the Lukashenko regime put the lives of more than 120 passengers, including American citizens, at risk,” he added.
“The first information pointing to the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the aircraft is deeply worrying and warrants a thorough investigation,” noted Antony Blinken. He added that Washington “supports the Belarusian people in their quest for a free, democratic and prosperous future and supports their desire for the regime to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
A Belarusian fighter intercepted a RyanAir airliner on the Athens-Vilnius route on Sunday. Roman Protassevich, 26, former editor-in-chief of the Belarusian opposition media Nexta. In the early evening, the plane was finally able to resume its flight to Lithuania, where it landed several hours behind schedule – without Roman Protassevich.
The Belarusian authorities claimed that Boeing had deviated from its course because of a “bomb threat”. Nexta, for his part, assured that the emergency landing was caused by a “fight” started by agents of the Belarusian security services present on board, after which an explosive device was introduced there. The European Union threatened with new sanctions against Minsk and NATO demanded the initiation of an “international investigation”.