Pressure mounts on Belarus over forced landing

IATA says it condemns any interference inconsistent with international law

IATA says it condemns any interference inconsistent with international law

Meeting in Brussels on Monday, leaders of the European Union increased the pressureon Belarus.

Belta, the state-owned news agency in Belarus, said President Lukashenko had personally given the order for the plane to land in Minsk following the bomb alert and approved despatching the MiG-29 jet. The United Kingdom announced similar measures several hours earlier on Monday, also banning Belarus' national carrier Belavia from flying to the UK.

Leaders from across Europe have condemned Belarus' actions, saying that the country violated global civil aviation agreements and knowingly endangered passengers and crew on board the aircraft.

Once on the ground, authorities arrested opposition activist Roman Protasevich, who was among the passengers.

Jakob Wert is an aviation journalist from Germany.

Lithuanian authorities are trying to verify the identity of three passengers who stayed behind in Minsk, along with Protasevich andthe woman he was traveling with, both of whom were forced to remain in Belarus.

In a tweet, Johnson said Belarus's actions "will have consequences". Belarus says it was responding to a bomb scare that later proved to be a false alarm.

The US secretary of state calls it "shocking", and the president of the EU Commission says it amounts to a "hijacking", reports the AP.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the diversion of the plane amounted to a

© Other The Ryanair flight from Athens was forced to change direction and land in Minsk.

The EU leaders also directed officials to draw up unspecified new sanctions against Belarus, and to work out a way to ban Belarusian airlines from the bloc's skies. But they have failed to influence the behaviour of Lukashenko, who enjoys unwavering financial and security support from Russian Federation, which considers the Belarusian frontier with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation its first line of defence.

Lithuania, she said, wants "to have a coordinated European decision" on the airspace issue.

Lukashenko, whose security services crushed months of pro-democracy demonstrations a year ago after an election opponents said was rigged, has so far shrugged off Western sanctions, which mostly consist of blacklists barring various officials from travelling or doing business in the United States and EU.

Russia, which has provided security, diplomatic and financial backing to Lukashenko, accused the West of hypocrisy.

"We asked him what was going on... he said: 'The death penalty awaits me here'". As a candidate, Biden denounced the "systemic repression" under Lukashenko's regime and called out electoral fraud in the last Belarus election.

Berlin, London and Brussels summoned the Belarusian ambassadors, as exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called for an independent probe, new sanctions and for Minsk to be excluded from global aviation bodies.

A number of his allies swiftly wrote on social media that the video was evidence that he was under coercion.

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