All news
Updated at: 

US denounces Ryanair flight incident in Belarus

Blinken urges release of Protasevich
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
© Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP

WASHINGTON, May 24. /TASS/. The United States has resolutely condemned an incident with the Ryanair flight in the airspace over Belarus on Sunday and demands an immediate release of Roman Protasevich, who was detained after a forced landing of the aircraft in Minsk, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

"The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich in Minsk," Blinken stated. "We demand his immediate release."

"This shocking act perpetrated by the [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens," the US state official continued.

"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 said.

The US Secretary of State also said that the authorities of the United States were "closely coordinating our response with our partners, including the EU and Lithuanian and Greek officials."

"Given indications the forced landing was based on false pretenses, we support the earliest possible meeting of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization to review these events," Blinken stated.

"Independent media are an essential pillar supporting the rule of law and a vital component of a democratic society," he said. "The United States once again condemns the Lukashenko regime’s ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists."

"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," the US secretary of state added.

A Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius made an emergency landing at the international airport in Minsk on Sunday after a reported bomb threat. The plane landed safely. No bomb was found inside.

Roman Protasevich, a co-founder of the Nexta Telegram channel, which had been recognized as extremist in Belarus, was among the passengers. Protasevich, currently living in Lithuania, is wanted in Belarus. The man was detained after the plane’s landing in Minsk.

The plane took off from Minsk to Vilnius late on Sunday.