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Ryanair accuses Belarus of ‘airplane shooting’

Ryanair has accused Belarus of being a “terrorist aircraft” by changing their flight from Greece to Lithuania to keep the union out of control, with EU leaders weighing anti-government sanctions.

The forced settlement in Minsk and the subsequent arrest of Roman Protasevich, a former editor of Nexta, one of Belarus’s most independent media outlets, “was one of the most obvious ways in which Belarusian authorities to end all protests,” said Josep Borrell EU chief.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, said: “It appears that the authorities’ goal was to eliminate the journalist and his traveling companion.” He said he understood Belarus’s KGB agents might be able to join.

Belarus’s foreign ministry has said such cases are “baseless” while Russia has called the EU’s response “surprising”.

Borrell called for an “international investigation” to determine whether there were any violations of international law. A French official said the request was made to the UN aviation agency.

The sanctions reviewed by 27 EU leaders include barring Belarussian air holder, Belavia, from landing at EU airports; declaring that there is no security in the air; and intensify the suspension of the movement and the suspension of property already established by the majority in Minsk for human rights violations, according to EU spies.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, threatened the “consequences” due to the “angry and illegal actions of the government in Belarus”. “Those who are Change Cheating should be tolerated, ”he wrote on Twitter. “Journalist Roman Protasevich should be released immediately.”

Relations between Brussels and Minsk have deteriorated following last year’s presidential election and the subsequent devastation. In December, European leaders passed a new law on Lukashenko and other members of the government.

Belarus is still part of the “Eastern Alliance” with six EU countries near Russia’s border, enjoying opportunities such as the visa agreement established last year. European agencies were hoping to oust Minsk from the Kremlin, but Sunday’s incident has confirmed its intentions.

Franak Viacorka, Belarus’s main opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has called for a state of emergency in Belarus. He also called for the overthrow of Belarus’s oil and potato stock exchanges, which would provide the needed funding for Lukashenko’s administration in Belarus with a 27-year steel cup.

Belarusian journalists say Lukashenko ordered the change of a Ryanair FR4978, which was carrying 171 passengers from Athens to Vilnius on Sunday before returning abruptly to the Belarusian capital Minsk shortly before departure from Belarus.

Belarus authorities say the MiG-29 fighter jet was flown to Minsk following a bomb blast, which they later identified as “fake”.

In a statement sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belarus on Monday, the Prophet Anatoly Glaz stated that air traffic controllers are “acting in full compliance with international law”. Glaz criticized EU countries for “rushing to declare war on the military” and for “deliberately engaging in political propaganda and fabrications”.

Russia’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, has endorsed Belarus’s response to Western allegations of fraud.

“It is strange that the West says that what happened in the Belarus destinations is ‘strange’.” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the ministry, wrote on her Facebook page, citing other examples of airlines moving by western countries to arrest people they want.

Protasevich’s girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who was traveling with him, was also arrested after the plane landed, according to the European Humanities University in Vilnius, where she was studying.

According to messages posted by Protasevich to his colleagues on Sunday, he said he was being followed by a man suspected of being a Belarusian KGB agent while in a lounge in Athens.

The passengers told AFP that Protasevich had started firing in his pockets and gave his girlfriend some items when it became clear that the plane was going to Belarus.

“[He was] not screaming, but it was obvious he was terrified, ”a passenger Edvinas Dimsa told AFP. “Apparently if the window had been open, he would have jumped.”

Additional reports of Philip Georgiadis in London and Richard Milne in Oslo

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