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Biden administration, EU coordinating on response to Ryanair incident in Minsk

Washington – US President Joe Biden said he welcomes the European Union’s call for sanctions against the Belarusian government over the Ryanair plane’s emergency landing and he has instructed his administration to craft options to hold Minsk accountable, reported Sputnik.

“I welcome the news that the European Union has called for targeted economic sanctions and other measures, and have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations,” Biden said in a press release on Monday.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney condemned the diversion of the Irish airliner Ryanair’s plane carrying Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and the two sides agreed to remain in close coordination on an appropriate response.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met with Coveney to discuss the matter and a potential response to the incident.

Moreover, Sullivan notified Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in a telephone discussion that the United States, European Union, and other partnering nations would work together to hold President Alexander Lukashenko to account over the emergency landing of the Ryanair plane in Minsk.

White House Press Psaki earlier on Monday called the Belarus incident “outrageous” but dodged a reporter’s question about why the US did not object to the 2013 forced landing of former Bolivian President Evo Morales’ aircraft to search for US whistleblower Edward Snowden on board.

“I think I’ve given an extensive comment on this specifically, we’re working with our partners around the world, I don’t think I have anything more for you,” Psaki said in response.

The Belarus government designated Protasevich’s Telegram channel Nexta as extremist for allegedly facilitating civil unrest in the country in the aftermath of the August presidential election. In November, the Belarusian Investigative Committee filed a request with the Polish Justice Ministry to extradite Protasevich and another Nexta co-founder, Stepan Putilo, to Belarus for criminal prosecution.

The Belarusian government on Sunday diverted the Ryanair aircraft that was travelling from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk over a bomb threat which later turned out to have been false. Among the passengers was Protasevich, who was detained by the Belarusian law enforcement during the stopover. His 23-year-old female companion, Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, was reportedly detained alongside him. – Bernama

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