EU in ’emergency situation’ as bloc blasted on weak response to Ryanair flight hijacking

Belarus: Expert discusses EU response following interception

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The European Union has found itself in an “emergency situation” following the arrest of Belarusian dissident Roman Protasevich in Minsk and the interception of the Ryanair flight he was travelling on. The EU has announced travel sanctions banning Belarusian airlines from using European airspace and airports. However the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid has called on the bloc to “wake up” and introduce a total travel ban on the country.

Ms Kaljulaid told TimesRadio: “First of all let us wake up. This is state-sponsored terrorism, nothing less.

“Against an aeroplane as I would like to repeat left Schengen was planning to land in Schengen was intercepted was forced to land in Minsk and some people went missing.

“Second, we have to understand what is currently happening to the Belarusian journalist and his girlfriend we don’t know but we already have threatening signs.

“He has appeared looking beaten saying he has been treated well etcetera.”

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Ms Kaljulaid added: “We don’t know what is going on we are in the situation of emergency.

The Estonian President also called on the EU to shut down the bloc’s border with Belarus and freeze all travel with the country.

She said: “My suggestion is we could be actually stronger. We could say that people cannot move to Belarus and from Belarus.

“It is not safe for our people anyway because who knows what they could be accused of in that country.”

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It comes after France 24 correspondent Dave Keating discussed the response from the European Union following the interception of a Ryanair flight ahead of the sanctions announcement on Monday night.

Mr Keating told the French news outlets: “They could increase the already existing sanctions on Belarus because of what they say was a fraudulent election and the crackdown on the protests against that election.

“But there are some more extreme measures that they could do.

“One is to block all flights over Belurusain airspace say that the airspace is not safe. The other would be to block all travel from Belarus to the EU just via air or maybe via ground and air transport.”

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He added: “That would be the most extreme reaction and the one most likely to get that dissident journalist released.

“So we will see, because this needs the agreement of all 27 countries, whether they can get a unanimous agreement for something strong at today’s summit.”

European leaders voted on Monday to impose a string of travel restrictions on Belarus after the country’s Kremlin-aligned leader Alexander Lukashenko forced the Ryanair passenger flight to redirect to Minsk.

Once the jet had landed in the Belarusian capital dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partner were removed from the plane and taken away. In response, the EU announced on Monday that Belarusian airlines had been banned from the bloc’s airspace and airports. 

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