Belarus: Russia bans flights to avoid ally due to forced grounding of Ryanair plane

Belarus: Russia bans flights to avoid ally due to forced grounding of Ryanair plane

Russia denied entry to two European planes because they planned to avoid flying over Belarus to reach Moscow.

Air France and Austrian Airlines had to cancel their flights after Russia refused to let them change their routes, fueling speculation the Kremlin might consider a blanket ban in support of its ex-Soviet ally.

Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested

However, the RBC newspaper reported on Friday that Russia will allow the arrival and departure of flights bypassing Belarusian airspace.

But Russian Federal Aviation Agency Rosaviatsiya told airlines that changes to routes following diplomatic escalation could lead to longer customs clearance times due to increased requests.

The UK and the EU had advised operators to avoid overflying Belarus after the government forced a Ryanair plane to divert to the country under escort of fighter jets to arrest a leading critic, sparking international outrage and further sanctions.

Alexander Lukashenko faces increased international isolation. Photo: AP

Opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, was arrested along with his Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, 23, and in a video released by Belarusian authorities on Monday evening, he appeared to admit – allegedly under duress – that he was involved in the organization of mass protests in Minsk last year.

that of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Sky News it is likely that Moscow was involved in the “hijacking” of the Belarusian aircraft.

Learn more about Alexander Lukashenko

Russia is a strong supporter of the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko, who has been President of Belarus since the office was established in 1994.

He was re-elected for a sixth time in 2020 with 80% of the vote, in a poll deemed “neither free nor fair” by the EU.

Since winning the contested elections last August, Lukashenko has cracked down on criticism, with scores of opposition figures arrested and other forced into exile.

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Ryanair flight ‘hijacked’ registered in Minsk

Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab welcomed an investigation by the International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the grounding of the Ryanair plane in Minsk under the pretext of a bomb threat.

He wrote on Twitter: “We want all the circumstances that led to this violation of international law to be investigated and made public.

“We will defend the principles that underpin civil aviation. “

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It comes as Mr Lukashenko visits Russia amid deepening diplomatic wrangling and growing international isolation.

He is about to meet the Russian leader Vladimir Poutine at his Black Sea residence in Sochi for talks about closer economic ties, according to the Kremlin.

M. Lukashenko a defended his actions and hit the West for trying to “strangle” their country with sanctions.

In the past, the Belarusian leader has often attempted to pit Russia against other countries, raising the prospect of improving relations with the EU and the United States to obtain more subsidies and concessions from Moscow.


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