Latvian airBaltic Will No Longer Fly Above Belarus

Due to an incident in the Minsk airport

The airline has taken this decision after the arrest of a Belarus opposition activist, LSM.LV website reported, citing Latvian Minister of Transport.

The decision has been taken after the forced landing of a Latvian airline flight headed from Greece to Latvia by Belarussian authorities. Belarus used its battle aircraft to force the plane’s crew to land in the Minsk airport to arrest Roman Protasevich, former editor-in-chief of Nexta, a channel on the Telegram messenger.

The situation with Ryanair aircraft, which was forcibly landed to arrest an opposition activist, is kind of an “extraordinary case, which raises loads of questions to air safety in Belarus,” Talis Linkaits, the Latvian minister of transport, said.

In conjunction with the Latvian Civil Aviation Agency, the Ministry should decide on their future steps to respond to the situation.

“This is unacceptable when a certain country decides on its own which plane or passenger it can stop. What our neighbor country has done contradicts all international conventions, so they have to face some consequences, including economic sanctions,” Linkaits stated.

Similar thoughts have also been articulated by the U.S. government and several European states. They want the International Civil Aviation Organization to freeze Belarus’ membership and to ban all forms of air travel in the airspace of that country before a proper investigation is done.

On May 23 former editor-in-chief of Nexta Roman Protasevich was traveling by Ryanair from Athens to Vilnius when Belarussian authorities allegedly received a warning about explosives onboard. They demanded that the aircraft land in the Minsk airport and then detained Protasevich but no explosives were found on the plane.

The opposition activist is charged with organizing an uprising; rude violations of civil order and stirring up hostility towards law enforcement officials. As a result, he might be sentenced to 15 years in jail.

In November last year, Belarus KGB put Protasevich on the list of individuals engaged in terrorist activity. In part, he is being accused of organizing riots after the presidential elections when the current president Alexander Lukashenko won with 80.1% of the votes. However, many Belarussian people took to the streets in a protest against vote falsifications and political oppression.

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