• By The Financial District


Belarus forced diversion of a plane to arrest a journalist was "a huge mistake" by the regime because it brought attention back to the country's political crisis, opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told Euronews.

Belarusian authorities on Sunday diverted a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius as it was flying in its airspace. Roman Pratasevich, a journalist, and his girlfriend were both arrested, according to the Euronews report.

Speaking to Euronews on Tuesday evening, Tsikhanouskaya said it was "a huge mistake that he [President Alexander Lukashenko] involved the passengers of other countries into this accident because he rose awareness about this situation in Belarus."

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"You have to look at this very situation not separately from the overall political situation in Belarus because we have political and humanitarian crises. People are still being tortured and what we have seen with this flight is the result of the impunity of regime."

"Since December, there were not strong events or conferences or strong steps from democratic countries towards the regime and he felt that he can do everything he wants," she added.

Tsikhanouskaya was on same flight path a week before

She also described herself as "shocked" over the incident, explaining that she had been on that exact same flight a week earlier.

"I also could be in the same situation. And we couldn't even imagine, we didn't take care about hiring security because we couldn't imagine that this is possible that a third country can force to land a flight just in the middle of its flight, deliberately," she said.

Western countries have strongly condemned the Belarusian regime over the incident with the European Union unveiling new sanctions on Tuesday and banning the country's airlines from using the bloc's airspace and airports. Western airlines have meanwhile avoided flying over Belarus.

The United Nations Security Council is to meet on Wednesday to discuss the situation.


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