06:35 GMT14 June 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The European Union on Monday summoned Aleksandr Mikhnevich, the Belarusian ambassador to the EU, to express protest over the incident with the Ryanair plane emergency landing in Minsk, the European External Action Service (EEAS) said in a statement.

    "Upon request by High Representative Josep Borrell, the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Stefano Sannino, summoned the Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to the European Union, Aleksandr Mikhnevich, to condemn the inadmissible step of the Belarusian authorities, who forced a civilian plane to perform an emergency landing in Minsk and detained its passenger Mr Raman Pratasevich, an independent Belarusian journalist and activist," the EEAS said. 

    According to the statement, the diplomat was informed about the "firm condemnation" of the incident by the EU member states, while Brussels called for the release of Protasevich.

    The United Kingdom also summoned the Belarusian ambassador in London, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday.

    According to Raab, the UK sees "no evidence" of Mink’s claim about a bomb threat on board the Ryanair flight and the "regime" in Minsk "must provide a full explanation for what appears to be ... a serious violation of international law".

    "For our part, we've summoned the Belarusian ambassador and the minister for the European neighborhood is conveying our condemnation of these acts as we speak. We are working with our international partners to explore every potential diplomatic option ... Beyond the diplomatic track we are actively considering and coordinating with our allies on further sanctions on those responsible for this outlandish conduct," Raab told the UK parliament. 
    Supporters of Belarusian opposition blogger and activist Roman Protasevich wait for the arrival of a Ryanair flight after it was diverted to Belarus, at Vilnius Airport in Vilnius, Lithuania May 23, 2021.
    © REUTERS / ANDRIUS SYTAS
    Supporters of Belarusian opposition blogger and activist Roman Protasevich wait for the arrival of a Ryanair flight after it was diverted to Belarus, at Vilnius Airport in Vilnius, Lithuania May 23, 2021.

    On 23 May, a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius was forced into an emergency landing in Minsk following a bomb threat, which later turned out to be false. Opposition blogger Roman Protasevich, who was among passengers, was detained during the stopover in the Belarusian capital. The founder of Telegram's "Nexta" channel, which is considered extremist by the Belarusian authorities, Protasevich now faces up to 15 years in prison. 

    The incident with the Ryanair flight has triggered a wave of criticism from European leaders, who accused the Belarusian authorities of meddling with the European Union's civil aviation and threatened to close the Belarusian airspace for international flights. However, this is not the first time a plane has been grounded at the request of a third country's authorities. 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. 

    Tags:
    envoy, United Kingdom, incident, Ryanair, European Union, Belarus
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