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World reacts to Belarus plane ‘hijacking’, arrest of journalist

European countries, the United States and the United Nations have condemned Belarus after authorities there forced a passenger plane carrying a wanted journalist to divert and land in its capital.

In what was described by some European Union leaders as a “hijacking”, the passenger plane flying from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday was suddenly diverted to Minsk and escorted there by a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet.

After landing, authorities took journalist Roman Protasevich into custody.

The incident comes as the EU is set to discuss toughening its existing sanctions against Belarus, imposed over President Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on opposition protesters, at a preplanned summit on Monday.

Here is a roundup of global reaction:

European Union

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said “the outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences”.

“Those responsible for the #Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned.”


Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda described Belarus’s actions as “abhorrent” and called for Protasevich’s immediate release.

Prosecutors also said they had opened a criminal investigation into the hijacking of a plane.

International Civil Aviation Organization

The United Nation’s civil aviation agency said the forced landing “could be in contravention of the Chicago Convention”, a treaty that protects nations’ airspace sovereignty.

United States

The US “strongly condemned” the arrest of Protasevich, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling for the journalist’s release.

“This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including US citizens,” he said in a statement, using an alternative spelling of the Belarusian leader’s name.

He added on Twitter: “We demand an international investigation and are coordinating with our partners on next steps.”


Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the prime minister of Greece, said the forced landing of a “commercial plane to detain a journalist is an unprecedented, shocking act”.

The EU “must address the need to step up pressure on Belarus,” he said, adding: “Enough is enough.”


The government in Ireland, where Ryanair has its headquarters, described the incident as “absolutely unacceptable”.

Micheal Martin, the Irish prime minister, called on the EU to address “these unprecedented actions” at Monday’s meeting.


Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki denounced Belarus’s actions as “an act of state terrorism” and called for sanctions against Lukashenko’s government.


Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, called for a “firm and united response” from European nations.


NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he is also closely monitoring the “forcible landing” and detention of “opposition figure Roman Protasevich.”

“This is a serious & dangerous incident which requires international investigation. Belarus must ensure safe return of crew & all passengers,” he wrote on Twitter.

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