The State Security Council has decided to suspend the operation of Belarusian airline Belavia in the Czech Republic.
The last flight will be checked in on Wednesday, May 26. Minister of Transport Karel Havlíček (ANO) announced it on Wednesday following the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk to arrest the journalist Raman Pratasevich, a key foe of authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
In a video posted online, the detained blogger, Roman Protasevich, 26, said he was in good health, being held in a pretrial detention facility in Minsk, and acknowledged having played a role in organising mass disturbances in the capital last year.
The European Union agreed Monday to impose sanctions on Belarus, including banning its airlines from using the airspace and airports of the 27-nation bloc.
“Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko must pay a bitter price for forcing a commercial flight to land in Belarus in order to detain a dissident journalist on board,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday.
“What Lukashenko did could hardly be more perfidious. More than 170 passengers’ lives were endangered to detain a journalist,” Maas said at a news conference with his Czech counterpart Jakub Kulhánek (ČSSD).
“We won’t tolerate that one can try to play Russian roulette with the lives of innocent civilians,” said EU Council chief Charles Michel, who presided over the EU meeting.
On May 23, Belarusian authorities sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to divert Ryanair flight between Athens and Vilnius, forcing it to land in Minsk at 13:16.
The diversion was carried out on the pretense of a bomb threat; however, it subsequently became evident the action was carried out to arrest dissident Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner, both passengers on the flight.
Protasevich is wanted by Belarusian authorities on several charges, primarily for involvement and reporting on anti-government protests; supporters claim all charges against him are politically motivated.
The European Union and several national governments have strongly denounced the action as a violation of international air transport rules, referring to the incident as a “highjacking,” and demand the release of the detained individuals as well as an urgent International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) investigation into the incident.