Washington: The US is calling for a full investigation into the Ryanair plane emergency landing in Minsk and is working closely with the European Union on the incident, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk. We demand his immediate release,” Blinken said in a Sunday statement.
He said the incident endangered the lives of over 120 passengers, including US citizens.
“Initial reports suggesting the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the plane are deeply concerning and require full investigation,” Blinken said, adding that the US is “coordinating our response with our partners, including the EU and Lithuanian and Greek officials.”
The Secretary of State said that Washington is in favor of the “earliest possible” meeting of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to review the Ryanair plane incident.
On Sunday, the press service of the Minsk National Airport told Sputnik that a Ryanair plane en route from Athens to Vilnius had to make an emergency landing in Minsk over a bomb threat, which later turned out to be fake. A fighter jet was deployed to escort the plane. It was reported later that Roman Protasevich — founder of a Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist – was detained during the stopover at the airport. He may face up to 15 years in prison.
The plane was cleared for take off from Minsk on Sunday evening and arrived in Vilnius at 18:27 GMT. The Minsk airport insisted that the decision to land in Belarus was made by the Ryanair captain and in accordance with international law.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has called for sanctions against those who are found responsible for the Ryanair plane emergency landing in Minsk and reiterated the EU position regarding the immediate release of Roman Protasevich.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has discussed the Ryanair plane incident with Philip Reeker, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, according to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, which said that the events called for a strong transatlantic response.