European Union demands immediate release of journalist seized from Ryanair plane


Michael Staines
Michael Staines

06.27 25 May 2021


Share this article


The European Union has labelled the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to Belarus on Sunday an "attack on democracy."

The European Council yesterday closed its airspace to Belarusian flights and directed all EU planes to avoid Belarusian airspace.

Member states also agreed to a range of new economic sanctions against the country’s ruling regime led by Alexander Lukashenko.

Advertisement

Journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested in Minsk after the Ryanair plane he was travelling in was intercepted and escorted to the Belarusian capital by fighter jets.

Belarusian authorities claimed there was a bomb threat against the plane; however, no explosives were found onboard.

The Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary yesterday told Newstalk the forced diversion was a "state-sponsored hijacking."

Last night, Mr Protasevich appeared in a video, released from his jail cell, where he said he was cooperating with investigators, and confessed to charges of organising protests.

Supporters and his father have warned that he appears to have made the admission under duress.

Speaking this morning, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the “outrageous behaviour” of the Belarusian authorities needs a strong answer.

“This is an attack on democracy, this is an attack on freedom of expression and this is an attack on European sovereignty.”

“The hijacking of the plane is also a deliberate and unnecessary triggering of a safety emergency,” she said.

“It has involved an unjustified intervention of a military aircraft. The air navigation service was misused to aid the state in taking control of an EU aircraft.

“Belarus used its control over its airspace in order to perpetrate a state hijacking.

“Therefore, the safety and security of flights through Belarus airspace can no longer be trusted and the Council will adopt measures to ban overflights of the EU airspace and deny access to EU airports to Belarus airplanes.”

She again called for Mr Protasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega to be released immediately.

The meeting was attended by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne.

Deputy Byrne told Newstalk that leaders didn’t take long to reach a unanimous decision on the sanctions.

“There was a unanimous decision on this and I have to say I have never seen such anger and such determination by leaders and such unity by leaders on an issue and that is welcome.

“At times it can be difficult to come to unanimity at the European Council but this agreement was reached in relatively short order because of the urgency behind it.”

Thomas Byrne: Photo Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

He said the sanctions are “really, really important.”

“I think it is important to protect the people of Belarus but hit hard against the dictatorship that is there,” he said.

Separately the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney met with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan at Shannon Airport yesterday.

In statements following the meetings, they condemned the “outrageous” diversion of the plane.


Share this article


Read more about

Belarus Michael O'Leary Plane Roman Protasevich Ryanair Thomas Byrne Ursula Von Der Leyen

Most Popular

Live: Title

Now playing

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
Added to queue
Removed from queue

On Air

Share

Share


Up next

Episode title
Show
Duration

You currently have no podcasts in your queue.

Go to podcasts

On Air

Best Of Newstalk

Best Of Newstalk

00:00-06:00

Share

Up next

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

06:00-06:30

Share

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

06:30-07:00

Share

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

07:00-09:00

Share

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

09:00-12:00

Share

LUNCHTIME LIVE

LUNCHTIME LIVE

12:00-14:00

Share

MONCRIEFF

MONCRIEFF

14:00-16:00

Share

THE HARD SHOULDER

THE HARD SHOULDER

16:00-19:00

Share

OFF THE BALL

OFF THE BALL

19:00-22:00

Share

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

22:00-00:00

Share

BEST OF NEWSTALK

BEST OF NEWSTALK

00:00-06:00

Share

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Share on