On May 24, the administration of US President Joe Biden published his official statement on the Belarusian authorities’ recent diverting a Ryanair flight and arresting journalist Raman Pratasevich.
„Belarus’s forced diversion of a commercial Ryanair flight, traveling between two member states of the European Union, and subsequent removal and arrest of Raman Pratasevich, a Belarusian journalist traveling abroad, are a direct affront to international norms. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms both the diversion of the plane and the subsequent removal and arrest of Mr. Pratasevich. This outrageous incident and the video Mr. Pratasevich appears to have made under duress are shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press,” the statement reads.
According to him, 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.
“I join the many calls for an international investigation to ascertain the complete facts of the case. 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 organisations,” Joe Biden said.
For months, the Belarusian people have made their voices heard—demanding democracy, respect for human rights, and the preservation of fundamental freedoms, he stressed.
“I applaud the courage and determination of Belarusians fighting for basic rights, including journalists like Raman Pratasevich and opposition leaders like Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her husband, Syarhei Tsikhanouski. The United States will continue to stand with the people of Belarus in their struggle,” the US leader promised.
As reported earlier, the participants in the European Council meeting held on May, 24 strongly condemned the recent forced landing of the flight by Belarusian authorities and, among other things, called for adopting the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by them.
On May 23, Ryanair’s Boeing 737-8AS which was flying from Athens to Vilnius unexpectedly changed its course over the Belarusian town of Lida and headed to Minsk. Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka personally gave the order to land the plane in the Belarusian capital city; in order to ‘escort’ the passenger carrier, a MiG-29 fighter was scrambled. It should be noted that the plane was not far from the Belarusian-Lithuanian air border at that moment; it was at a distance of 90 km from Vilnius and about 200 km – from Minsk.
A bit later, it became known that the Belarusian authorities arrested journalist Raman Pratasevich, whom they consider as a ‘terrorist’ at Minsk National Airport; he happened to be among the passengers of the widely-reported flight. The bomb threat was officially refuted by the airport administration. The operation of forcibly landing the Ryanair airplane seems to have been deliberately planned and performed by pro-Lukashenka secret services.
In November 2020, Stsyapan Putsila, the founder of NEXTA TG channels, and Raman Pratasevich, a former deputy editor of the channels, were included in the ‘List of organisations and individuals involved in terrorist activities’ by the Belarusian authorities. The NEXTA group kept steering and controlling the 2020 post-election protests in Belarus via channels on the web, the regime believes.