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US, European Council chief condemn forced diversion of flight, arrest of journalist in Minsk

US Star and Stripes flag. Stock Photo: dcandau/Pixabay

Washington, May 24 (MNN) The US has strongly condemned the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member-states and subsequent arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk.

“We demand his immediate release. This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including US citizens,” Secretary of State Antony J Blinken said on Sunday (local time).

He said initial reports suggesting the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the plane are “deeply concerning” and require full investigation.

“We are closely coordinating our response with our partners, including the EU and Lithuanian and Greek officials. Given indications the forced landing was based on false pretenses; we support the earliest possible meeting of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to review these events.”

Blinken asserted that independent media are an essential pillar supporting the rule of law and a vital component of a democratic society.

“The US once again condemns the Lukashenka regime’s ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists. 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.”

Meanwhile, European Council President Charles Michel also condemned in the strongest possible terms the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on May 23 and detention by Belarusian authorities of Raman Pratasevich.

“I call on Belarus authorities to immediately release the detained passenger and to fully guarantee his rights. The EU leaders will discuss this unprecedented incident tomorrow during the European Council. The incident will not remain without consequences,” he said.

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