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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.

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 "a potential security risk on board."

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

What they're saying: "The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk. We demand his immediate release," Blinken said in the statement.

  • "This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens."

The bottom line: "The United States once again condemns the Lukashenka regime's ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists," Blinken said.

  • "We stand with the Belarusian people in their aspirations for a free, democratic, and prosperous future and support their call for the regime to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Go deeper

Aug 16, 2021 - World

U.S. joins 60 countries in urging safe exit of citizens from Afghanistan

A Qatar Airways aircraft takes off from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport on Saturday. Photo: Wakil Koshar/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and over 60 countries issued a joint statement Sunday saying Afghans and international citizens who wish to leave the country should be allowed to do so, with airports and border crossings remaining open.

Driving the news: The statement was issued as the U.S. completed its evacuation of American Embassy staff and prepared to take over Kabul airport's air traffic control to fly personnel out of Afghanistan after the Taliban swept into the capital earlier in the day.

Federal Reserve scales back expectations for economic recovery as Delta variant weighs

Fed chair Jerome Powell during a congressional hearing last year. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Fed downgraded near-term expectations for the economy and the labor market, alongside hotter-than-expected inflation, in new estimates out on Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the first time those closely-watched estimates reflect impact from the delta variant that's already rattled the labor market. Still, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said enough progress has been made to begin to pull back emergency-era measures that have supported the economy.

Bipartisan police reform negotiations end without deal

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) with Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the Capitol in May 2021. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Bipartisan talks on reforming police tactics and accountability, prompted by George Floyd's murder in May 2020, have ended without a compromise, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a key negotiator, said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Lawmakers, led by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Booker, had been working toward a bipartisan deal for months but they fell apart due to disagreements on qualified immunity and other issues.