Jun 4, 2021 - World

EU bans Belarus airlines from its airspace following journalist arrest

Picture of journalist Roman Protasevich

Raman Pratasevich in 2020. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The European Union on Friday banned Belarus airlines from flying over EU territory or landing in its airports in response to the Belarus government's forced landing of a Ryanair plane to arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich.

Driving the news: The restrictions come one day after Pratasevich appeared in a video on Belarus state television declaring his respect for strongman Aleksandr Lukashenko — who he has opposed for years — and claiming to have organized "mass riots" against the regime.

  • The 26-year-old breaks down in tears at one point in the video.
  • Human rights groups pointed to bruises on the journalist's hands and face, suggesting that his confession was forced, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: The diversion of the Ryanair passenger jet carrying Pratasevich last month prompted international outrage after it was revealed that Belarus security services had called in a fake bomb threat to force the plane to land in Minsk to arrest Pratasevich and his girlfriend.

  • The U.S. last week condemned Pratasevich's arrest and announced it was reimposing sanctions against nine state-owned Belarusian enterprises starting Thursday.
  • The White House also stated it was working with the EU to develop specific sanctions against members of the Lukashenko regime. European leaders have described the incident as a "hijacking."
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