KLM avoids Belarus airspace after passenger plane was redirected
Dutch airline KLM has followed Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s advice and has stopped flying over Belarus after a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius was redirected to land in Minsk where a leader of the Belarusian opposition was removed from the plane.
Ryanair flight redirected to Minsk for journalist's arrest
Journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich was arrested on Sunday after the Ryanair flight he was on was diverted following a false bomb threat from Belarusian air traffic control. No bomb was found aboard the aircraft, and Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has said Belarusian secret service agents were on board. Protasevich was arrested upon landing in Minsk.
Since his arrest, a video has surfaced in which Protasevich says he is doing well and that the Belarusian security services are treating him fairly. In the video, he also took responsibility for organising the protests in Belarus. Local authorities say the 26-year-old is being detained in Minsk.
EU imposes sanctions against Belarus
KLM had previously said they would continue to fly over Belarus, but on Monday Rutte stated that Belarus’ actions went beyond all limits and that the act must have consequences. The Prime Minister also called for an investigation and for the EU to put sanctions in place against all those involved.
The actions of Belarus led to outrage across Europe, as leaders and mainstream media spoke of kidnapping, hijacking, and state terror. Following a meeting on Monday, European leaders agreed to impose sanctions against the country: Belarusian aircraft are no longer allowed to land at EU airports and must avoid EU airspace, EU airlines have also been asked to avoid Belarusian airspace, and criminal measures will be taken against those directly involved in rerouting the flight. Additional economic sanctions are also expected to be announced.
“Everyone was completely done with what happened,” said Rutte after the meeting on Monday. “I have never experienced it myself that we as government leaders were so quickly resolved. It shows how seriously we take this.”
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