Rutte: action by Belarus is ‘unprecedented and unacceptable’

“All passengers must be able to continue their journey to Vilnius immediately and safely. Any violation of international air traffic rules must be investigated,” said the Prime Minister, who responded to the incident on Twitter.

The plane flew from Greece to Lithuania and was flying over Belarus when it received a message that a bomb threat had been made and that the plane had to divert to the nearest airport. A Belarusian Air Force fighter jet escorted the plane to Minsk airport.

False alarm

The bomb threat was a false alarm and it would appear that this was a preconceived plan to arrest opposition member Roman Protasevich, even though he was traveling between two EU countries. It is said on Belarusian state television that the authorities only discovered after landing that the dissident was on board, where he was arrested. He risks the death penalty in the country.

International criticism is fierce. “We hold the Belarusian government responsible for passenger and aircraft safety,” EU foreign chief Josep Borrell wrote on Twitter. “ALL passengers must be able to continue their journey immediately,” said Borrell, who indirectly demanded the release of Protasevich. The EU will discuss countermeasures at the two-day EU summit tomorrow evening.

‘Serious and dangerous’

NATO called the White Action ‘a serious and dangerous incident’. “The Belarusian government must ensure the safe continuation of the journey for all travelers.” The United Nations said it was concerned.

Several European countries said that there should be an immediate explanation and that it is unacceptable. Poland even called it “state terror”. Neighboring Lithuania wants the EU to recommend aircraft to avoid Belarusian airspace.

D66, ChristenUnie and Volt want the EU to take steps against the government in Minsk. “After this insane action by Lukashenko, the EU must draw a clear and hard line: D66 wants a European ban on landing and overflighting Belavia until Protasevich is free again,” said Member of Parliament Sjoerd Sjoerdsma. “Now the EU must act, now the EU must address this dictatorship with measures.”

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