BERLIN, May 31. /TASS/. Berlin and Paris condemn a Ryanair flight incident in Minsk and demand that a new presidential election be held in Belarus, according to a statement released following a meeting of the Franco-German Council of Ministers on Monday.
"We unequivocally condemn the rerouting of a Ryanair flight to Minsk on May 23 and demand the immediate release of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega," the statement reads. "We welcome the prompt and firm response of the European Council. Given the political situation in Belarus, we reiterate our demand that a new presidential election should be held as soon as possible, all political prisoners should be released and violence against the Belarusian people should end," the parties added.
The European Union summit held on May 24 banned Belarusian air companies from operating flights to EU airports and using the European Union’s airspace, and recommended that European air carriers refrain from using Belarusian airspace. The decision came in response to an incident involving a Ryanair flight en route from Athens to Vilnius, which made an emergency landing in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on May 23 after a reported bomb threat. The threat turned out to be a hoax. News came later that Roman Protasevich, wanted in Belarus as a co-founder of the Nexta Telegram channel, which the Belarusian authorities recognize as extremist, had been among the flight’s passengers. Protasevich and Russian national Sofia Sapega, who was traveling with him, were detained by Belarusian law enforcement officers.