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Raman Pratasevich. Photo: Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden said in a statement Monday his administration is developing "appropriate options" in coordination with the EU to hold Belarus accountable following the country's diversion of a flight to arrest an opposition leader.

Driving the news: Earlier Monday, the European Council called for an independent investigation into the episode, the submission of sanctions proposals and advised EU-based carriers to avoid and airspace.

The big picture: A Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania was forced by Belarusian air control to land in Belarus' capital Minsk Sunday, under the pretext of "a potential security risk on board."

  • Belarusian authorities then detained Raman Pratasevich, a journalist and activist who was critical in organizing mass anti-government protests in Belarus last year, and his partner Sofia Sapega.
  • Belarus' actions have been described a "hijacking" by some European leaders, who have vowed the country will face consequences.

What they're saying: "I welcome the news that the European Union has called for targeted economic sanctions and other measures, and have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations," Biden said.

  • Biden called Pratasevich's detainment by the Belarusian authorities is a "direct affront to international norms."
  • "The United States joins countries around the world in calling for his release, as well as for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners who are being unjustly detained by the Lukashenka regime," he said.

Go deeper

May 23, 2021 - World

Blinken calls for release of activist detained by Belarus

Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Belarus' diversion of a commercial plane and subsequent arrest of opposition leader Raman Pratasevich in a statement Sunday, and called for Pratasevich's "immediate release."

State of play: Blinken said the U.S. is working with its partners to coordinate a response and he supports the "the earliest possible meeting" of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate the matter.

Updated May 24, 2021 - World

Global outcry as Belarus accused of "hijacking" plane to detain activist

Raman Pratasevich. Photo: Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

European Union leaders were due to meet Monday to discuss possible sanctions against Belarus after a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania carrying an opposition activist was diverted to Minsk over a supposed bomb threat.

Why it matters: Raman Pratasevich, a journalist and opposition leader wanted by the Belarusian government, was detained at the Minsk airport once the plane landed. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted, "Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned."

May 24, 2021 - World

Ryanair CEO: Forced landing in Belarus was "state-sponsored hijacking"

Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The forced landing of a Ryanair passenger airplane by Belarusian officials was “a state-sponsored hijacking" meant to target a journalist and dissident on board, Michael O’Leary, the airline's CEO, told Politico.

Why it matters: The diversion of the plane was an attempt by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko to "remove" journalist Roman Protasevich, a prominent opposition figure living in exile, O'Leary said.