Roman Protasevich’s arrest: Europe airlines redirect flights away from Belarus

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Several European airlines have said that they will not fly over Belarus, days after a dissident journalist was arrested on a flight diverted to Minsk.

Air France is the latest major carrier to ban overflights. Neighbouring Ukraine and Poland are stopping all flights to and from Belarus.

Western countries accuse Belarus of hijacking the Ryanair plane carrying journalist Roman Protasevich on Sunday. The Greece-Lithuania flight was rerouted over a supposed bomb threat.

Belarus authorities on Monday released video of Mr Protasevich that appears to have been recorded under duress since his arrest.

He faces charges related to his reporting of last August’s disputed election and subsequent crackdown on mass opposition protests, and has said he fears death penalty after being placed on a terrorism list.

Belarus is the only European country that still executes prisoners.

At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, the leaders of the

Economic sanctions
27 European Union member states called for the overflight ban, and promised further economic sanctions.

At the Brussels summit, EU leaders told the bloc’s airlines not to fly over Belarus. They also asked member states to suspend operating permits for its national carrier Belavia.

We have “suspended overflights of Belarusian airspace until further notice,” Air France said.

Finnish airline Finnair also announced a ban.

Air France’s Dutch subsidiary KLM, along with German carrier Lufthansa, Scandinavia’s SAS and others, announced similar suspensions on Monday.

Singapore Airlines also said it was rerouting flights to avoid Belarus.

Meanwhile, Polish national airline Lot said it had suspended both overflights and flights to and from Minsk, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukrainian carriers were banned from flying over or into Belarus.

Olusola Akintonde

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