On Monday, the leaders of the EU countries called on the EU Council to approve a decision to ban Belarusian airlines from using the airspaces and airports of the European Union.
The summit participants also called on the air carriers of the European Union to abandon flights over the territory of Belarus.
Earlier, a number of European airlines have already announced their decision to refrain from flying over Belarus.
EU leaders also called for additional sanctions against Belarus as soon as possible and demanded that Minsk immediately release Roman Protasevich and Sophia Sapega.
#EUCO leaders acted forcefully in response to the outrageous actions of the Belarus regime.
We are closing our airspace to planes from Belarus & call on EU airlines not to fly over the country.
Further economic sanctions will be presented soon.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 24, 2021
Let us remind you that on May 23, the former editor-in-chief of the Nexta Telegram channel and the host of the Belarus Brain Telegram channel Roman Protasevich, accused of organizing mass riots in Belarus, flew on a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius. The plane with Protasevich on board flew through the airspace of Belarus. Just before reaching the Lithuanian border, the plane turned towards Minsk.
First, there were reports in the media that it was decided to land the plane in Minsk because of the conflict on board. This information was later refuted. Judging by the available information, the crew received a message from the Belarusian air traffic controllers about a possible bomb on board the aircraft. The instruction to proceed to the Minsk airport was reinforced by a MiG-29 fighter taken into the air to accompany the passenger board. The Pool of the First Telegram channel, which publishes messages from the press service of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, reported that Alyaksandr Lukashenka personally gave the order to land the plane in Minsk.
Belarusian Air Force Commander Igor Golub denies that the MiG-29 was raised in advance. According to Golub, Ryanair pilots turned the plane towards Minsk airport before the fighter was taken into the air.
After the plane had landed in Minsk, people with dogs came on board. Roman Protasevich was taken aside and then taken out of the plane. Passengers told Delfi that after the emergency landing was reported, Protasevich first panicked, but then calmed down and told the questions of other passengers that he would face the death penalty. Before flying from Athens, Protasevich wrote that he had noticed that he was being followed.
Later it became known that along with Protasevich, his girlfriend, a 23-year-old Russian citizen, Sofya Sapega, who was accompanying him, was detained. Sapega is studying for a master’s degree at the European State University (YSU) in Vilnius under the program “International and European Union Law”. The YSU leadership demanded that Minsk immediately release its student.
A day later, a video was published in which Roman Protasevich claims that he is completely healthy and gives confessionary testimony about the organization of mass riots.
Protasevich is the former editor-in-chief of the largest Belarusian opposition telegram channel Nexta. Recently, Protasevich also hosted the opposition telegram channel “Brain Belarus”.
Protasevich, who lives in Poland, was put on the international wanted list by the Belarusian authorities and included in the list of persons involved in terrorist activities. Moreover, Protasevich, together with the creator of Nexta, Stepan Putilo, became the first Belarusian on this list in the entire history of the country.
Roman Protasevich is accused in Belarus of organizing mass riots and group actions that grossly violate public order. After reports of the arrest of Protasevich, there were reports that the journalist was facing the death penalty, but TUT.BY clarifies that this is not the case. Protasevich is charged under three articles: part 3 of article 130 of the Criminal Code (committing deliberate actions aimed at inciting social enmity on the basis of professional affiliation – up to 12 years in prison), art. 293 (organization of mass riots – up to 15 years in prison) and Art. 342 (organization of group actions that grossly violate public order – up to 3 years in prison).