The United States and European allies have called for a ban on all overflight of Belarus after a forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk, Belarus.
"We call for an immediate inquiry to be held by the International Civil Aviation Organisation [ICAO] into this clear violation of free transit between states and the threats to the aircraft," says a joint statement issued by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
"Until ICAO has reported, we call for Belarus to be suspended from the organization and a ban on all overflight of Belarus including flights to and from the country."
"It is clear that the current administration in Minsk has no respect for the safety of our citizens and cannot be trusted to defend their rights. This act of state terror and kidnapping is a threat to all those who travel in Europe and beyond. It cannot be allowed to stand," it said.
The statement was also signed by Menendez's counterparts in the Czech Republic, Latvia, Germany, Lithuania, Ireland, Poland, and the United Kingdom.
Forced landing of Ryanair plane and Roman Protasevich's arrest
- On May 23, 2021, a Ryanair plane flying en route from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, was diverted and forced to land at Minsk airport, Belarus. After landing, the country's authorities arrested co-founder of Telegram's opposition channel NEXTA, Roman Protasevich (Raman Pratasevich), who was on board the plane.
- Leader of the Belarusian opposition Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (Svetlana Tikhanovskaya) responded to the incident. "The regime forced the landing Ryanair plane in Minsk to arrest journalist and activist Raman Pratasevich. He faces the death penalty in Belarus. We demand immediate release of Raman, ICAO investigation, and sanctions against Belarus," she said on Twitter on May 23.
- There were immediate reports that President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko had sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to intercept the Ryanair plane with the ex-chief editor of NEXTA on board.
- That country's Defense Ministry confirmed the interception of the plane.
- President of the European Council Charles Michel insists it will be essential that ICAO investigate the Minsk incident.