Media: Belarus lands plane and arrests bloggers | Free press

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A journalist is on his way from Greece to Lithuania, but he doesn’t get very far. The plane was reportedly forced to land over Belarusian skies and the man was arrested.

Minsk (dpa) – According to state media reports, authorities in the authoritarian Republic of Belarus have landed a plane bound for Athens to Vilnius (Lithuania) in Minsk.

Also on board was the blogger Roman Protassewitsch, who was internationally popular with the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko, who was arrested in Minsk, according to the Wesna Human Rights Center. Opposition members spoke on Sunday about an unprecedented damage to international airspace. Opposition news channel Nexta (pronounced: Nechta) also confirmed the arrest of its co-founder and former editor. Lukashenko “hijacked” an airplane in violation of all laws, the channel criticized. The airline initially did not comment.

The authorities in Belarus had classified Nexta as extremist. Last year, the station repeatedly called for massive protests against Lukashenko after the controversial presidential election. The blogger Protassewitsch is one of many opposition activists wanted internationally who declared war on Lukashenko himself.

The secret service KGB had put the journalist on a list of people accused of participating in terrorist attacks, as the portal reports to Telegram. According to the state agency Belta, Lukashenko himself gave the order to land the plane in Minsk after an alarm about an explosive device on board the plane.

A MiG-29 fighter jet had also climbed up to accompany them, as the airport confirmed. Airport spokespersons announced in state media that the pilots on board the passenger plane had requested permission to land. Later, the information about the alleged bomb turned out to be false alarms. The airport’s sports director, Maxim Kijakow, said on state television that the 123 passengers in the trans area were waiting for their onward flight.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called for the immediate release of the activist Protassevich. “This is an unprecedented incident (…) The Belarusian regime is behind this horrific action,” he wrote on Twitter.

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