03:09 GMT01 August 2021
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    The Ryanair plane made an emergency landing due to a bomb threat on 23 May in Minsk, which later turned out to be fake. Belarusian investigators have already opened a probe over the incident, while the authorities said they are ready to invite international experts.

    It was reported later that journalist Roman Protasevich, founder of a Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist, was detained during the stopover at the airport. He may face up to 15 years in jail. A number of EU countries have condemned Minsk’s actions and warned Belarus of possible consequences amid the detention of Protasevich.

    A commission to investigate the Ryanair aircraft emergency landing in Minsk was created in Belarus. According to the aviation department of the Belarusian Transport Ministry, the circumstances of the incident will be made public in the near future.

    This is not the first time when a plane was forced to land in Europe in an attempt to detain a wanted person. Back in 2013, President Evo Morales’ plane had to make an emergency landing upon the request in Austria during the hunt for National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. He was never on board though.
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    • 21:53

      Biden Says US Sanctions Against Belarus Possible, But He Won't Speculate Further on the Matter

      A Ryanair aircraft, which was carrying Belarusian opposition blogger and activist Roman Protasevich and diverted to Belarus, where authorities detained him, lands at Vilnius Airport in Vilnius, Lithuania May 23, 2021.

      Biden: Sanctions Against Belarus 'in Play' as US Weighs Response to Ryanair Incident

      Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken blasted the forced weekend landing of a Ryanair plane, calling the incident a "shocking act" that was purposely done to detain Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich after the civilian airliner crossed into the country's airspace.
      Read more
    • 20:58

      Latvia's AirBaltic Halts Flights From Riga to Minsk Following Ryanair Incident

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Latvian flag carrier airBaltic is set to suspend flights from Riga to Minsk starting on Thursday, following Belarus-initiated diversion of a Ryanair plane that traveled from Greece to Lithuania and the consequent EU recommendation to close the Belarusian airspace.

      "After receiving a decision by the Latvian government and the official recommendation from the Civil Aviation Authority of Latvia, Latvian airline airBaltic announces that it has suspended all flights from Riga to Minsk from May 27, 2021, until further notice," the company said in a statement.

      According to the statement, the suspension will affect a total of 126 flights between the two capitals until late October.

      The company also noted that it has already been avoiding entering Belarusian airspace since the day of the incident, Sunday, and will continue to do so until late October. The decision will reportedly affect over 1,500 airBaltic flights.

    • 19:28

      Russian Diplomat Met With Russian Citizen Sapega, Arrested in Minsk, Embassy Says

      MINSK (Sputnik) - A Russian diplomat met with Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, who was arrested in Belarus after being taken from a Ryanair flight and detained together with one of the founders of Telegram channel Nexta, Roman Protasevich, the diplomatic mission told Sputnik on Tuesday.

      Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, following a phone conversation between the foreign ministers of Russia and Belarus, Sergey Lavrov and Vladimir Makei, that the republic's authorities had promised to provide consular access to Sapega in the near future. The ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, said that the Russian woman was detained on suspicion of committing crimes in August-September 2020, provided for by several articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus.

      "The representative of the embassy met with Russian citizen Sofia Sapega," the diplomatic mission said.

      Sapega told Russian diplomats that she felt fine, she did not express complaints about incorrect treatment, Alexey Maskalev, the press attache of the Russian embassy in Belarus, said.

      "A permission was received from the Belarusian authorities for consular access, literally at that moment the meeting of our employee, a representative of the embassy, ​​with Sofia, just ended. According to the first information we received from him, I can say that she feels fine. She did not express any special complaints or incorrect treatment by the Belarusian law enforcement agencies," Maskalev told the Rossiya 24 broadcaster.

      Russian diplomats are taking all measures to protect the interests of Sapega, Maskalev said.

      "We are taking all the necessary actions and measures to protect the interests of our citizen from the very beginning of the situation," he said.

      Russia is waiting for official information from Belarus on the measure of restraint for Sapega, Maskalev added.

    • 18:22

      Lufthansa Cancels All Flights From Frankfurt to Minsk Until 3 June

    • 17:03

      Belarus Embassy in Canada to Cease Operations on 1 September

      The Belarusian embassy in Canada will cease operations in Ottawa on September 1 but will halt consular services on July 10, the diplomatic mission said on Tuesday.

      "The government of the Republic of Belarus has taken decision to close the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Canada," the mission said in a statement. "The Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Canada suspends its activity on September 1, 2021."

      The consular functions of the Belarusian embassy in Canada will be performed by the country’s consulate in New York, the statement said.

    • 16:35

      UNSC to Discuss Belarus Airplane Diversion Behind Closed Doors Wednesday, Security Council Source Says

      The UN Security Council will discuss in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday the grounding of a Ryanair plane in Belarus and the arrest of a dissident journalist Roman Protasevich who was onboard the aircraft, a diplomatic source at the Security Council said on Tuesday.

      "Yes, France, Norway and Ireland informed the Security Council they intend to raise the issue of plane landing in Belarus on Wednesday under "Any Other Business" agenda," the source said. "Since the consultations are closed, any issue could be discussed in there, even without giving a notice."

    • 16:31

      Russian Foreign Ministry Expects Russian Consul to Meet With Detained Sapega Soon

      The Russian side received permission to meet with Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, who was detained in Minsk on suspicion of committing crimes under several articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus in August-September last year, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.

      "Permission to meet the Russian consul with Sapega has been received. We expect that the meeting will take place in the near future," she said.

    • 15:47

      Trudeau: Canada Examining Options For Imposing More Sanctions on Belarus After 'Outrageous' Ryanair Incident

    • 12:10

      Merkel Says There is No Confirmed Information on Russia’s Role in Ryanair Incident

      There is no confirmed information about Russia’s role in the incident with a Ryanair plane in Minsk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

      “Yesterday we did not have confirmed information about the role of Russia, and therefore we did not assess this. If I talk with Russian President [Vladimir Putin], this topic, of course, will be on the agenda, but we should not proceed from assumptions. It is known about close relations between Belarus and Russia, but, as you know, there is no confirmed information [on Russia’s role in the Ryanair incident],” Merkel said during a press briefing.

      Moreover, Merkel mentioned that there will be more discussions about the Russia-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with the United States.

      Last week, the US administration identified four entities and four vessels subject to sanctions for engaging in the construction, but waived sanctions against the operator of the project, Nord Stream 2 AG, and its CEO Matthias Warnig.

      "Discussions and negotiations with the US on Nord Stream 2, of course, will continue. We initially welcomed [the decision to waive part of the sanctions], because I am in any case very critical of extraterritorial sanctions, no matter where they are imposed," Merkel added.

    • 11:07

      UK's Johnson Calls for Immediate Release of Protasevich, Warns Belarus of Consequences

    • 10:53

      Sapega’s Father Says Neither Lawyer Nor Consultant Met With His Daughter, Reasons for Detention Remain Uncertain

    • 10:25

      Belarus Invites EU, US, Int'l Organisations to Investigate Ryanair Incident

    • 10:24

      Sapega Was Only Russian Citizen Who Got Off Ryanair Flight in Minsk, Zakharova Says

    • 10:11

      Kremlin Believes Accusations Against Russia Over Ryanair Incident Inadequate

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Kremlin believes that claims of Russia’s involvement in the Ryanair incident in Minsk are not adequate, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

      On Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that London may consider proposals to impose restrictive measures on Russia-led gas pipelines to Europe after the emergency landing of the Ryanair plane in Belarus.

      "Such a Russophobic obsession and the obsessive idea of blaming Russia for everything and everyone. Probably, it will soon come to the point that Russia will be accused simply of the fact of its existence," Peskov told reporters.

      The spokesman also called these accusations "inadequate," adding that Moscow does not agree with them.

    • 09:58

      Kremlin on Russian Citizen Sapega's Detention in Minsk: We Resolve Such Incidents Quickly

      Ryanair Boeing 737-800 (EI-DWO) taking-off from Hahn

      Russia Ready to Protect Rights of Its Citizen Sofia Sapega, Detained in Minsk, Prosecutor Says

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Russian Prosecutor General's Office is ready to protect Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, who was recently detained in Minsk, if her rights are violated, First Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Buksman assured on Tuesday.
      Read more
    • 08:30

      Poland Seeks Access to Black Boxes of Grounded Ryanair Flight as Part of Criminal Probe

      WARSAW (Sputnik) - Poland wants to get access to the black boxes of the Ryanair plane that made an emergency landing in the Belarusian capital of Minsk over an alleged bomb threat, Secretary of State for Europe, Polish Community Abroad, Public and Cultural Diplomacy Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek told the Polish Television on Tuesday.

      The intention came as the Polish public prosecutor general's office ordered a criminal probe into the diversion of the plane, which is owned by the Polish branch of the Irish low-cost airliner Ryanair, to Minsk.

      "I believe that the Polish public prosecutor general's office would like to listen to the recordings of the black boxes if they have survived. This will be the subject of the investigation," the official said.

      According to the diplomat, first of all, it is necessary to establish what was going on in the air, aboard the plane, to determine what arguments — verbal or not only — forced the crew's commander to turn the plane, which almost reached the border of Lithuania, back to Minsk.

      "The plane is currently in Lithuania. I hope that in the coming days our prosecutors will be able to have direct contact with the evidence and the crew, which is in Vilnius. The Polish prosecutor's office is already in contact with the Lithuanian side," he added.

      The Vilnius-bound Ryanair plane was diverted to Minsk on Sunday over a suspected bomb threat, which later turned out to be false. Among the passengers was Roman Protasevich, a co-founder of a Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist. He was detained during the stopover at the Minsk airport and may face up to 15 years in prison.

      Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Monday that the Minsk airport was not the nearest one and the plane could have continued its journey. The Belarusian Transport Ministry insists that the transcript of negotiations between Belarusian air traffic controllers and Ryanair pilots shows there was no pressure on the crew to decide on the emergency landing.

    • 08:29

      Stoltenberg Welcomes New EU Measures Against Belarus Following Ryanair Incident

      NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed on Tuesday the new EU measures issued against Belarus following the Ryanair plane incident.

      "I welcome the additional measures agreed by the European Union. There must an urgent international investigation and journalist Roman Protasevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega, must be immediately released. The North Atlantic Council will address this issue later today," Stoltenberg said at a press briefing following his meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

    • 08:29

      EU Considers Limiting Exports From Belarus, Lithuanian Diplomat Says

      The European Union is considering limiting exports from Belarus in light of the Ryanair incident, Lithuanian Foreign Vice Minister Mantas Adomenas announced on Tuesday.

      "The list of sanctions will be expanded, there will be new packages, there will be limitations on different exports. We do not want Belarus to have a status similar to that of North Korea ... Such isolation brings no result," Adomenas told Russia's Echo of Moscow radio station.

      According to the Lithuanian official, restrictions can affect export of oil products, fertilizers, machinery, tractors and technologies.

    • 08:28

      Beijing on Ryanair Incident: Sides Should Wait for Facts to Be Established

      China is calling on all the sides to exercise restraint and avoid any escalation around the incident with the Ryanair plane that made an emergency landing in Minsk, the foreign ministry's spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said on Tuesday.

      "We paid attention to relevant statements. As of now, the circumstances of the incident remain unclear. All the sides should exercise restrain and avoid escalation and wait for facts and the true picture to be established," Zhao said at a briefing.

    • 07:24

      Finnair Suspends Flights Over Belarusian Airspace in Light of Ryanair Incident

      Finnish flag carrier Finnair announced on Tuesday its decision to suspend flights over the airspace of Belarus in the wake of the Ryanair incident.

      "We will discontinue using Belarus airspace until further notice. Our next affected flight is Gazipasa next Wednesday. According to Traficom’s recommendation, this route will avoid Belarus airspace. The change will make flight time a bit longer," the airline tweeted.

      Finnair said its decision was based on the recommendation of the national aviation authorities that airlines avoid the Belarusian airspace following the emergency landing of an Anthens-Vilnius Ryanair flight in Minsk, which led to the arrest of an opposition Belarusian journalist on board.

    • 07:23

      Ukraine Suspends Air Traffic With Belarus

      Ukraine suspends air traffic with Belarus starting May 26 midnight local time (May 25, 21:00 GMT) following the emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk, and Ukrainian airlines and planes will be banned from crossing the Belarusian airspace, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced.

      "From 00:00 on May 26, Ukraine suspends air traffic with Belarus. The government has just tasked the ministry of infrastructure, the state aviation service and the UkSATSE state enterprise with taking necessary measures to ensure this. Apart from that, Ukrainian airlines and planes will be banned from flying in the airspace of the Republic of Belarus," Shmyhal wrote on Telegram on Tuesday following an urgent cabinet session.

      The border service of Ukraine was instructed to suspends the registration of passengers traveling from/to Belarus at the customs stations in airports, the prime minister added.

    • 05:32

      Air France Suspends Flights Into Belarus Airspace

    • 23:45

      Biden Says Welcomes EU Call for Sanctions on Belarus, Crafting Options Over Ryanair Issue

      "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 in a press release on Monday.

    • 23:32

      US Security Adviser Sullivan, Irish Foreign Minister Condemn Forced Diversion of Ryanair Flight

      "Today, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of Ireland to discuss our strong bilateral relations and cooperation on a number of shared global challenges," the release said on Monday. "Mr. Sullivan and Foreign Minister Coveney condemned the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk by the Lukashenka regime, and they agreed to remain in close touch on an appropriate response."

    • 23:31

      Biden Says US Condemns Diversion of Ryanair Flight, Arrest of Pratasevich

    • 21:35

      France's Transport Ministry Urges French Airlines Not to Fly Over Belarus Airspace

    • 20:28

      Hamas Denies Involvement in Ryanair Plane Incident, Says Group 'Doesn't Resort to These Methods'

      Boeing 737 Ryanair

      Hamas Denies Making Fake Bomb Threat That Caused Ryanair Plane to Land in Minsk

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied on Monday the group's involvement in the Ryanair plane emergency landing in Minsk over a false bomb threat.
      Read more
    • 19:59

      EU Leaders Condemn Forced Landing of Plane in Minsk; Call for ICAO Probe, New Sanctions

      MOSCOW, May 24 (Sputnik) - EU leaders, during a summit in Brussels, condemned the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, called for an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) probe into the incident, and urged for tougher sanctions and bans on Belarusian carriers' flights in the EU, according to the summit's conclusions published on Twitter by European Council President Charles Michel's spokesman Barend Leyts.

      "The European Council strongly condemns the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May 2021 endangering aviation safety, and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega," the document says.

    • 19:15

      Dozens Gather at EC Warsaw Office to Demand Release of Belarusian Journalist Protasevich

      WARSAW (Sputnik) - Protesters demanding the release of Belarusian opposition figure Roman Protasevich, the founder of a Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist, gathered on Monday near the European Commission's representative office in Warsaw, a Sputnik correspondent reported from the scene.

      About one hundred of Belarusian and Polish citizens came to the building where the representative offices of the European Commission and the European Parliament are located. They brought white-red-white flags and flags of the European Union, portraits of Protasevich and other jailed Belarusian opposition activists.

      Protesters demand the EU authorities put pressure on the Belarusian government and impose new sanctions over the incident. They also collect signatures under a petition with the request to actively intervene in the situation with Protasevich's arrest, which will be submitted later to the European Commission.

      Some Polish politicians also take part in the rally, including member of the parliament Michal Szczerba.

    • 18:50

      Protasevich, in Video Message, Says He Has No Health Issues, is Cooperating With Investigation, Confesses He Organised Riots in Minsk

      "My name is Roman Protasevich, yesterday I was detained by interior ministry officials at Minsk Airport. At the moment, I am at the detention facility No.1 in Minsk. I have no problems with my health, no heart conditions. I am being treated in accordance with the law. I continue to cooperate with investigators, confessing my part in organising mass riots in Minsk," Protasevich said. 

    • 18:45

      What Does the Former NSA Whistleblower Think About the Ryanair Plane Incident in Minsk?

      Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden addresses attendees through video link at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Snowden has been living in Russia to escape U.S. prosecution after leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programs

      Snowden Says 'Downing' Aircraft to Arrest Dissidents Should Always Be Opposed

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US whistleblower Edward Snowden said on Monday that grounding of aircraft to arrest dissidents should be opposed no matter which country does it.
      Read more
    • 18:38

      Lufthansa Suspends Flights Over Belarus Following Ryanair Plane Incident

    • 18:35

      EU Leaders Discuss Russia, Belarus Without Gadgets for Confidentiality

      European Council President Charles Michel asked the European leaders to hold a discussion of the issues of Belarus and Russia without electronic devices to ensure confidentiality, Michel's spokesman Barend Leyts said on Monday.

      EU leaders on Monday are discussing relations with Russia, as well as the response to the landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk and the detention of its passengers Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Russian citizen Sofia Sapega.

    • 18:31

      German Foreign Ministry Protests to Belarusian Ambassador Over Ryanair Plane Incident

      A protest was expressed to the Belarusian Ambassador in Berlin Denis Sidorenko in connection with the incident with the Ryanair plane and the detention of one of the founders of the Nexta Telegram channel Roman Protasevich, the German Foreign Ministry's State Secretary Miguel Berger said on Monday.

      Berlin calls for an urgent international investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and promises swift reaction by EU and others, he added.

    • 18:25

      President Lukashenko Will Reportedly Deliver Statement on the Ryanair Incident on Tuesday

    • 18:16

      Poland, Allies to Push for EU Sanctions on Those Behind Ryanair Plane Grounding

      Poland and its allies will urge the European Union to impose sanctions on those behind the forced landing of a Ryanair airliner in Belarus, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Monday.

      "We have just concluded Visegrad Four consultations. We will push for decisive actions from the European Council. We will recommend flights to bypass the Belarusian airspace," he said after meeting his Czech, Slovak and Hungarian counterparts.

      He suggested that people responsible for what he called "hijacking" should be banned from entering the EU. He urged the EU earlier in the day to suspend air travel to and from Belarus until it freed the journalist who was detained in Minsk upon landing.

      The Irish airline’s passenger plane with more than 100 people on board was flying from Greece to Lithuania when a Belarusian fighter forced it down in Minsk over an alleged bomb threat. EU leaders are expected to discuss the incident during a meeting in Brussels.

    • 18:04

      'Can't Tell You Anything Else': Psaki Declines to Answer Journo's Question About US Reaction to Grounding of Morales' Plane During Hunt for Snowden

      Official residence of the U.S. President, the White House in Washington D.C.

      Psaki Refuses to Compare Ryanair Incident in Minsk to Grounding of Ex-Bolivian President's Plane

      In 2013, the plane of Bolivia's then-president Evo Morales was directed by Austria to make an emergency landing at the behest of the United States, during the hunt for the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The whistleblower was not on board.
      Read more
    • 17:53

      Von Der Leyen: EU's $3.7Bln Economic Package Frozen Until Belarus Becomes Democratic

      The European Union has an investment and economic package for Belarus in the amount of 3 billion euros ($3.66 billion), but it is frozen until Belarus becomes a democratic country, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said ahead of the EU summit in Brussels.

      "There is 3 billion [euros] investment and economic package ready to go in the European Union that is on hold and frozen till Belarus turns democratic," she said.

    • 17:36

      ICAO Council Chief Calls Urgent Meeting on 27 May to Discuss Ryanair Incident in Minsk

      Salvatore Sciacchitano, the president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council, called for an urgent meeting in connection with the incident involving the Ryanair airplane in Belarus, ICAO said on Monday.

      "ICAO's Council President has called an urgent meeting of the 36 diplomatic representatives to the ICAO Council, on 27 May, on the incident involving Ryanair Flight FR4978 in Belarus airspace on 23 May 2021. We will post further updates as available," the organization said via Twitter.

      The ICAO Council is currently not in session and the next set of meetings have been scheduled for June 7-25.

      The announcement comes following an incident on Sunday, when an airplane flying from Athens to Vilnius had to make an emergency landing in Minsk over a bomb threat, which later turned out to be false. Roman Protasevich, founder of a Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist, was aboard the airplane and was detained during the stopover. Protasevich may face up to 15 years in prison for organizing mass unrest, among other charges.

      According to ICAO, its secretariat is empowered only to support countries' diplomacy in air transport, and any international investigations and airspace blockades that may arise as a result of this incident would need to be proposed and agreed to diplomatically by the countries concerned.

      Questions on a possible probe must await further diplomatic advice from the countries who collaborate through ICAO and decide on such matters. Currently, 36 representatives and ambassadors serve their countries as members of the elected ICAO Council.

      Earlier on Monday, the UK government called on the ICAO to discuss the Belarusian authorities’ arrest of a journalist who was onboard the Ryanair airplane that had to make an emergency landing in Minsk on Sunday over a bomb threat.

      The United States is calling for a full investigation into the Ryanair airplane emergency landing in Minsk and is working closely with the European Union regarding the incident, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

      The Belarusian Transport Ministry told Sputnik on Monday that Minsk plans in the near future to notify the ICAO and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) of its readiness to investigate the emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk.

      Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said on Monday that Belarus is ready to invite international experts over the incident with the emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk.

    • 17:21

      UN Aviation Agency to Hold Urgent Meeting on Thursday on Ryanair Incident in Belarus

      The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said on Monday that it is concerned by the incident involving a Ryanair plane making an emergency landing in Belarus and will hold a meeting about the incident on Thursday.

      "ICAO is strongly concerned by the apparent forced landing of a Ryanair flight and its passengers, which could be in contravention of the Chicago Convention. We look forward to more information being officially confirmed by the countries and operators concerned," the UN agency said via Twitter. "ICAO's Council President has called an urgent meeting of the 36 diplomatic representatives to the ICAO Council, on 27 May, on the incident involving Ryanair Flight FR4978 in Belarus airspace on 23 May 2021."

    • 17:14

      European Commission Chief Confirms That Sanctions Against Belarus Over Plane Incident May Affect Persons, Organisations, Aviation Sector

    • 17:13

      UN Chief Deeply Concerned by Apparent Forced Landing of Plane in Belarus and Detention of Journalist, Backs Full Probe of Incident

    • 17:12

      IATA Says Full Probe By International Authorities Needed Into Ryanair Incident

      The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging a full probe into the incident of a Ryanair plane undertaking emergency landing in Minsk, IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh said on Monday.

      "IATA strongly condemns any interference or requirement for landing of civil aviation operations that is inconsistent with the rules of international law," Walsh said in a statement. "The details of the event with flight FR 4978 are not clear. A full investigation by competent international authorities is needed."

      On Monday, the UK government called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to discuss the incident in which the Belarusian authorities arrested a journalist on board the Ryanair airplane upon emergency landing in Minsk over a bomb threat.

      US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States has called for a full investigation into the Ryanair incident and is working closely with the European Union on the matter.

      Earlier on Monday, the Belarusian Transport Ministry told Sputnik Minsk plans to notify the ICAO and IATA of its readiness to investigate the Ryanair airplane’s emergency landing in the near future. In addition, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said on Monday that Belarus is ready to invite international experts.

      On Sunday, the plane flying from Athens to Vilnius had to make an emergency landing in Minsk because of a bomb threat, which later turned out to be false. Roman Protasevich, founder of a Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist, was aboard the airplane and was detained during the stopover. Protashevich face up to 15 years in prison for organizing mass unrest in the country as well as face other charges.

      The transcript of negotiations between Belarusian air traffic controllers and Ryanair pilots shows there was no pressure on the crew to decide on an emergency landing, Belarusian Transport Ministry Aviation Department Dorector Artem Sikorsky said on Monday.

      Sikorsky said the air traffic controllers acted in accordance with international standards and added that reports about alleged threats of air-to-air missiles against the aircraft were not true.

    • 16:44

      Russia Calls on West to Refrain From Double Standards, Assess Ryanair Incident Without Emotions, Cooperate With Belarus' Aviation Authorities

      Russia calls on West to refrain from double standards, assess the incident connected to the emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk without emotions and cooperate with Belarusian aviation authorities, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Monday.

      "We call on our Western partners to refrain from applying 'double standards' and to take measures to soberly, without emotion, assess the situation on the basis of all available materials in cooperation with the Belarusian aviation authorities, demonstrating openness and readiness to interact," Zakharova said in a statement.

      Roman Protasevich, the founder of a Telegram channel that is labelled extremist in Belarus, was detained in Minsk on Sunday, when his flight had to make an emergency landing in the Belarusian capital. The bomb threat that caused the stop turned out to be fake.

      "We took note of the information about the detention by the Belarusian special services of one of the founders of the telegram channel ‘NEXTA’ R. Protasevich, who was on board and was on the list of persons involved in extremist activities. We consider this issue to be an internal affair of Belarus," Zakharova added.

      The spokeswoman also said that the actions of Belarusian aviation authorities during the emergency landing "were in line with international standards".

      "The coordinated reaction to these events by representatives of a number of Western countries and international organizations, including the EU, NATO and the OSCE, is surprising. They demand the release of the detained R. Protasevich and introduce the most firm additional sanctions against Belarus and the Belavia airline. I would like to remind you that they reacted differently to similar events that had taken place earlier in other countries. And there were many such examples," Zakharova said.

    • 16:42

      Merkel: EU Leaders to Discuss Joint Response to Ryanair Incident

      EU leaders will use the upcoming council meeting to come up with a joint response to the incident with Ryanair plane that had to make an emergency landing in Belarus, which led to the detention of a journalist, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday.

      Roman Protasevich, the founder of a Telegram channel that is labelled extremist in Belarus, was detained in Minsk on Sunday when his flight had to make an emergency landing in the Belarusian capital. The bomb threat that caused the stop turned out to be fake.

      "We will also discuss what kind of measures we can take against Belarus as part of this joint response. This could be new [sanctions] lists, president [Alexander] Lukashenko is already on the list. There is also the issue of banning flights of the Belarusian airline and, of course, international investigation and freeing the detained," the chancellor said ahead of the council in a stream provided by the EU services.

    • 16:40

      US National Security Advisor Raises Ryanair Incident With Russian Counterpart

      US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan raised strong concerns over the Ryanair incident during a discussion with his Russian counterpart Nikolay Patrushev, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

      "Our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also raised our strong concerns on this issue, the actions of the government of Belarus, with his Russian counterpart during their phone call this morning," Psaki said during a press briefing.

    • 16:35

      White House Says Biden Briefed on Belarus Ryanair Incident, No Updates to Announce

       White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that President Joe Biden was briefed on the Ryanair incident in Belarus, but had no updates to provide on the matter.

      "He was briefed this morning during this PDB [President's Daily Briefing] by his national security team," Psaki said when asked about Biden's response to the Ryanair incident in Belarus.

    • 16:34

      UK Air Transport Watchdog Suspends Flight Permit of Belarusian Airline Belavia, All Charter Carriers of Belarus

      The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suspended flights for Belarusian airlines, including Belavia and all charter carriers, and also warned UK airlines against flying over Belarus.

      "Following the UK Government's decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has suspended all foreign carrier permits held by Belarusian air carriers until further notice. This suspension applies to both scheduled operators, including the Belarusian airline Belavia, as well as chartered air carriers," the statement says.

      "The Civil Aviation Authority has also issued a notice to all UK registered airlines requesting that they avoid overflight of any territory of the Republic of Belarus," the CAA added.

    • 16:25

      Belarus Reacts to Replacement of Its National Flag in Riga With Red-White One Used by Opposition

      Belarus flag

      Belarus, Latvia Expel Each Other's Diplomats Over Belarusian State Flag Incident in Riga

      MINSK (Sputnik) - Belarus is expelling the Latvian ambassador and other diplomats of the Baltic country over the incident with the Belarusian state flag in Riga, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said on Monday.
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    • 16:06

      UK's Raab Says No 'Clear Details' on Alleged Russian Involvement in Ryanair Plane Incident

      UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that there were no 'clear details' on alleged Russian involvement in the incident with Ryanair plane landing in Belarus.

      "He [lawmaker] asks about Russian involvement. We don't have any clear details on that, and I'll be careful what I say at this point because ... it's very difficult to believe that this kind of action could have been taken without at least the acquiescence of the authorities in Moscow," Raab said in response to a lawmaker's question in parliament.

    • 15:51

      Minsk Put No Pressure on Ryanair Plane's Crew, Belarusian Transport Ministry Says

      The transcript of negotiations between Belarusian air traffic controllers and pilots of the Ryanair aircraft, there was no pressure from Minsk on the crew when a decision on emergency landing was made, Artem Sikorsky, the director of the aviation department of the Belarusian Transport Ministry, said on Monday.

      "There was no pressure on the part of Belarusian air traffic controllers on the Ryanair crew to make a decision," Sikorsky said at a briefing.

      He stressed that the Belarusian air traffic controllers had acted in accordance with international obligations.

      Sikorsky said that the reports about alleged threats with the use of air-to-air missiles against the aircraft were not true.

      "We strictly follow all the standards of international civil aviation. There are not any threats to shoot down an aircraft in the standards," he added.

    • 15:51

      Belarus Ready to Invite International Experts Over Ryanair Incident, Foreign Minister Says

      Belarus is ready to invite international experts over the incident with the emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said on Monday.

      “We are ready to provide any data related to this incident with the Ryanair plane, we are ready to transparently investigate this incident with the participation of relevant international experts. But not a single country, neither the European Union nor a Western country has requested information on this matter from the Belarusian side, as far as I know, at the moment,” Makei told reporters.

    • 15:48

      Belarusian Ambassador Summoned to German Foreign Ministry Over Ryanair Plane Incident

      Belarusian Ambassador to Germany Denis Sidorenko was invited on Monday evening to the German Foreign Ministry in connection with the emergency landing of a Ryanair airline in Minsk and the detention of the founder of the Nexta Telegram channel Roman Protasevich, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday.

      "The Belarusian government's explanations for the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk are implausible and not credible. We need clarity about what really happened yesterday - on board and on the ground. And we need clarity about the situation of Roman Protasevich and his partner, who must be released immediately. To this end, we have summoned the Belarusian Ambassador to the Federal Foreign Office for this evening. State Secretary Miguel Berger will conduct the talks," Maas said in a statement.

      "At the same time, the EU heads of state and government will discuss a joint EU reaction at today's informal European Council. This transgression cannot remain without consequences," the minister added.

    • 15:31

      Italian Foreign Ministry Summons Head of Belarusian Diplomatic Mission, Declares Ryanair Incident Unacceptable

      The Italian Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the acting head of the Belarusian embassy to express protest regarding the incident with the emergency landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk. 

    • 15:14

      Belgium Proposes to Impose Sanctions on Civil Aviation of Belarus, Prime Minister Says

    • 14:39

      UK Likely to Avoid Belarusian Airspace, Secretary of State for Transport Says

    • 13:49

      Swedish Airline SAS to Reroute Planes to Avoid Airspace of Belarus

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Swedish airline SAS Airlines said on Monday that it would avoid the airspace of Belarus based on the recommendations of the country's transport authorities after the incident with a Ryanair plane.

      Earlier in the day, the Swedish transportation watchdog recommended that Swedish airlines avoid the Belarusian airspace.

      "We will follow the instructions and reroute the flights that are concerned," the company said, as quoted by AFP.

    • 13:00

      Lufthansa's Minsk-Frankfurt Flight Delayed Over Possible Terrorist Attack, Minsk Airport Says

      Passengers queue at a Lufthansa counter at the Franz-Josef-Strauss-airport in Munich, southern Germany, on April 27, 2016.

      Lufthansa's Minsk-Frankfurt Flight Delayed Over Possible Terrorist Attack, Minsk Airport Says

      MINSK (Sputnik) - Boarding on Minsk-Frankfurt flight on Monday was stopped over an email about a possible terrorist attack and the re-inspection of the plane is ongoing, the Minsk National Airport said.
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    • 12:21

      Lithuania Bans all Flights From Crossing Belarus' Airspace

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Lithuanian Transport Minister Marius Skuodis announced on Monday that Poland's LOT, Hungary's Wizz and Latvia's AirBaltic airlines are voluntarily avoiding the Belarusian airspace.

      The minister confirmed that all flights to and from Lithuanian airports must avoid the airspace of neighboring Belarus, Reuters news agency reported.

      The ban enters into force on 03:00 Tuesday local time (midnight GMT).

    • 12:18

      Lithuania Recommends Citizens to Avoid Travel to Belarus, Foreign Ministry Says

    • 12:15

      Reporters Without Borders Urges EU Leaders to Sanction Belarus Over Diverted Jet

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Reporters Without Borders director general Christophe Deloire said on Monday that he expected EU leaders to take action against Belarus after it forced an airliner to land and arrested a journalist.

      "Hijacking a plane to arrest a journalist is pushing state treachery to the extreme. We expect from the international community sanctions commensurate with this perfidy," he tweeted.

      Deloire urged Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to free Roman Protasevich, a former editor of the Poland-based online news outlet Nexta. The 26-year-old Belarusian was arrested after disembarking.

      The Ryanair plane with over 100 passengers on board was ordered to land in Minsk over the alleged bomb threat while flying from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday. The EU said that leaders would discuss response measures during the upcoming meeting.

    • 11:24

      Lithuanian University Says Russian Student Detained During Ryanair Stopover in Minsk

      MOSCOW, May 24 (Sputnik) - The Lithuanian police said on Monday that the captain of the aircraft that was flying from Athens to Vilnius decided to make an emergency landing in Minsk after negotiations with the Ryanair airline.

      The police chief noted that 126 passengers left Athens while 121 landed in Vilnius. The police chief declined to tell which five passengers remained in Minsk and did not reach their destination, Reuters reported.

    • 11:10

      Ryanair Condemns Act of 'Aviation Piracy' by Belarusian Authorities

      LONDON (Sputnik) - Ryanair told Sputnik on Monday that it condemns the act of "aviation piracy" by Belarusian authorities that forced its aircraft to make an emergency landing in Minsk, and maintains contact with EU safety agencies and NATO after the incident.

      "Ryanair condemns the unlawful actions of Belarusian authorities who diverted Ryanair’s flight FR4978 to Minsk yesterday (23 May), which was an act of aviation piracy. This is now being dealt with by EU safety and security agencies & NATO. Ryanair is fully cooperating with them and we cannot comment further for security reasons," the airline said.

    • 10:17

      NATO Ambassadors to Convene on Tuesday to Discuss Ryanair Incident, NATO Official Says

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - NATO will hold a meeting at the level of ambassadors on Tuesday to discuss the Ryanair aircraft emergency landing in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, a NATO official told Sputnik.

      "Allies are consulting on the forcible landing of the Ryanair plane by Belarus and ambassadors will discuss it tomorrow," the official said on Monday.

    • 10:17

      Kremlin Calls for Sober Assessment of Ryanair Incident in Minsk

    • 09:38

      Russian Embassy Checks Information About Russian Citizen Sofia Sapega's Detention in Minsk

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Russian Embassy in Belarus announced on Monday that it is checking information in connection with media reports about the recent detention of a female Russian citizen in Minsk.

      Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, aged 23 — who was traveling with Roman Protasevich, the founder of Nexta Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist — was reportedly detained when their flight made an emergency landing in Minsk.

      "The embassy is checking information in light of media reports about the detention of a Russian citizen in Minsk on 23 May. We are in contact with Belarusian law enforcement agencies," the embassy wrote on Twitter.

    • 08:43

      Latvia's AirBaltic Suspends Flights Above Belarus After Ryanair Incident, Minister Says

      RIGA, May 24 (Sputnik) - Latvian flagship carrier airBaltic has decided to stop flying over the territory of Belarus in light of the emergency landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Transport Minister Talis Linkaits said on Monday.

      "Airline airBaltic has decided not to use the airspace of Belarus for its flights yet," Linkaits told reporters, adding the decision is related to aircraft safety issues.

      A Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius had to make an emergency landing in Minsk on Sunday over a bomb threat, which later turned out to be misinformation. To escort the plane, Belarus deployed a fighter jet.

      Among the passengers was Roman Protasevich, the founder of a Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist. He was detained during the stopover at the Minsk airport and may face up to 15 years in prison.

    • 08:43

      Polish Prosecutor Orders Criminal Probe Into Ryanair Plane Emergency Landing in Minsk

    • 08:42

      Ryanair Chief Believes KGB Staffers Were on Board Plane Forced to Land in Minsk

    • 08:42

      Belarusian Foreign Ministry Points to Attempts to Politicise Ryanair Incident

      MINSK, May 24 (Sputnik) - The Belarusian Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Anatoly Glaz, told Sputnik on Monday that the Ryanair aircraft emergency landing in Minsk is being politicised, and slammed Western nations for making belligerent statements hastily.

      "It is striking how hastily some countries and European structures are making overtly belligerent statements. It is clear that the situation is being aggravated. It is deliberately politicised, we hear groundless accusations," Glaz said.

    • 08:42

      Minsk Acted in Line With International Standards in Ryanair Incident, Foreign Ministry Says

    • 08:40

      Belarus Does Not See Any Reduction in Air Traffic After Ryanair Incident, Navigation Body Says

      MINSK (Sputnik) - Belarusian aviation authorities have not noticed any reduction in the air traffic through the country following the emergency landing of a Ryanair aircraft, they have not yet received any notifications from airlines on changing flight routes to bypass Belarus, Oleg Kazyuchits, deputy general director of Belaeronavigatsia, a Belarusian state-owned enterprise for air navigation services, told Sputnik on Monday.

      "Everything is as usual, we do not notice [a reduction in the air traffic], the traffic is normal," Kazyuchits said.

      According to the official, Belaeronavigatsia has not received any notifications from airlines about the termination of transit flights through the Belarusian airspace.

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    Live Updates: US, Allies Coordinating on Response to Ryanair Plane Incident in Minsk
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