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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

Aug 31, 2021 - World

70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

Staffers at a Vacci-Bus wait for vaccination seekers in July at the Place des Martyrs in Brussels. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the EU one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."