Saturday, 19 June, 2021


UN's Top Aviation Body To Meet Today Over Belarus Plane Diversion

The ICAO headquarters in Montreal Canada The ICAO headquarters in Montreal Canada
Noah Ferguson | 29 May, 2021, 10:08

Hours before a scheduled meeting in the Russian seaside resort of Sochi with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, his only major global ally, the Belarusian leader warned he would allow migrants and drugs to pour into western Europe.

"There has been an attempt to stir up the situation so it would end up being similar to that of August a year ago".

The Belarus strongman and his allies are under a series of Western sanctions over a brutal crackdown on mass protests that followed his disputed re-election to a sixth term last August.

Russian Federation is the only country standing by Belarus after the flight was intercepted.

He continued to maintain that Belarus diverted Sunday's Ryanair's Athens-Vilnius flight because of a bomb threat against the flight by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

"The president was led out of the plane, and nothing, silence", Putin said.

Putin and Lukashenko have met regularly since August, when historic protests broke out against Lukashenko's almost three-decade rule following a disputed election.

The editor-in-chief of state-controlled Russia Today, Margarita Simonyan, said, at the start of the week, that Lukashenko "played it beautifully", but top Kremlin officials were less forthcoming initially, with Putin's spokesman declining press requests to comment, until Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov characterized Lukashenko's actions "absolutely reasonable".

Several people died in the unrest, with many reporting torture and abuse in custody.

Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania had denied the Ryanair flight permission to land and its only option was to turn to Minsk, he said.

But Proton Technologies, which is based in Geneva, said the message was sent after the plane had already been diverted.

The United States and western European members of the UN Security Council have called for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to investigate Belarus' diversion of the Ryanair flight.

Protasevich, who helped organize historic demonstrations against Lukashenko's rule past year, was arrested along with Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23, after the plane landed in Minsk.

The Belarusian opposition has called for stronger measures.

Both Protasevich and Sapega have since appeared in confession videos that their supporters said were recorded under duress and are a common tactic of the regime to pressure critics.

Their call came hours after a defiant President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday defended the action, lashing out at critics at home and overseas.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Thursday that proposals were "on the table" to target key sectors of the Belarusian economy.

"These events took place amid an escalating wave of repression by the Lukashenka regime against the aspirations of the people of Belarus for democracy and human rights", Psaki said in a statement.

Estonia called meanwhile for a stop to the "flow of money" to Lukashenko.

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