US, Europe call for ban on all flights over Belarus

Western countries have expressed outrage at the forced diversion of a plane carrying a Belarusian activist on an internal EU flight on Sunday, BBC reported.

US, Europe call for ban on all flights over Belarus

US, Europe call for ban on all flights over Belarus

STEPANAKERT, MAY 24, ARTSAKHPRESS: EU leaders are due to discuss their response to what the union's executive called a "hijacking" and the US state department "a shocking act."

Belarus forced the plane, which was bound for Lithuania, to land in Minsk claiming a bomb threat to the aircraft.

It arrested the Belarusian journalist and activist Roman Protasevich.

The 26-year-old was aboard the Ryanair plane, which was flying from Athens. The aircraft was due to land in Vilnius, but still in Belarusian airspace when Belarusian authorities scrambled a fighter jet and diverted it to the country's capital.

State media in Belarus said President Aleksandr Lukashenko had personally given the order for the move following the bomb alert, which turned out to be false. The plane landed in Vilnius more than six hours after its scheduled arrival.

The incident drew sharp condemnation from across the European Union, with countries urging the immediate release of Protasevich and a full investigation.

Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, said "the outrageous and illegal behaviour... will have consequences".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the "shocking act" and said President Joe Biden's administration was "coordinating with our partners on next steps."

The head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, issued a statement with some of his European parliamentary counterparts denouncing "an act of piracy" and calling for a ban on overflights of Belarus.