The Debate - Lukashenko's way: Why the brazen capture of Belarus journalist?

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US, EU Accuse Belarus of Terrorism After Plane Diverted to Arrest Journalist

Belarus has a reputation for using intimidation and coercion to force confessions from political prisoners, as a 2018 report from the US secretary of state on human rights abuses in the Eastern European nation noted.

Ryanair said in a statement that the flight crew of the diverted aircraft was notified by air traffic controllers in Belarus of "a potential security threat on board and were instructed to divert to the nearest airport, Minsk".

CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that Pratasevich was a key figure in the huge protest movement against Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, which saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets a year ago.

"The discussion on Russian Federation was more general of strategic nature", Mitsotakis told journalists after the European Union summit on Tuesday in Brussels.

Once on the ground, Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich - who had been living in exile - and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were taken off the plane and arrested before the airliner was allowed to continue on its journey. Polish carrier LOT and Baltic airlines have begun bypassing Belarus.

Speaking in the early hours of Tuesday in Brussels, Mr Michel said the events were "unacceptable, shocking and scandalous".

The statements call for a ban on all flights over Belarus, including to and from the country, and for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union states to impose sanctions on the country and suspend Belarus' "ability to use Interpol".

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has deemed the event "state hijacking" and Ireland and France have characterized it as piracy amid mounting worldwide outrage.

Ursula von der Leyen: "This is an attack on freedom of expression, and this is an attack on European sovereignty".

The 30-nation military organization's ambassadors are meeting later Tuesday and will discuss the episode.

Protasevich's Russian girlfriend is being held on suspicion of crimes at the time of protests past year, Moscow said on Tuesday.

The spokesperson for the U.N.'s human rights office, Rupert Colville, said Protasevich's appearance likely was not voluntary and that he seemed to have bruising to his face, although it was hard to tell from the video.

"The measures of restricting flights in particular ... are extremely biting on the Belarus system", Macron said.

"This astonishing episode constitutes a new phase in the Belarusian authorities campaign of repression against journalists and civil society in general", Colville said. Pavel Seviarynets, the leader of the opposition Christian-Democratic Party, was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of organizing mass riots.

With a file from The Associated Press.

'We will not tolerate that they play Russian roulette with the lives of innocent civilians, ' he added.

VIDEOTAPED "CONFESSION" Lukashenko, whose security services crushed months of pro-democracy demonstrations previous year 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.

About 35,000 people have been detained since then and protests have subsided.

U.S. President Joe Biden said late Monday that he asked his team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and worldwide organizations.

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