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Merkel demands immediate release of Belarus activist and partner

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

German chancellor brands explanations from Belarusian authorities ‘completely implausible.’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Belarus to immediately release opposition activist Roman Protasevich and his partner, as she also threatened EU sanctions over the forced landing of the airplane in which they were traveling.

Speaking Monday evening upon arrival at a European Council summit in Brussels, Merkel said EU leaders would discuss “a unified European reaction” to the “unprecedented actions” of Belarusian authorities in forcing a Ryanair flight to conduct an emergency landing in Minsk on Sunday in order to arrest Protasevich, an activist and journalist, and his partner Sofia Sapega.

The EU reaction would “certainly include further [sanctions] listings” of individuals close to the Belarusian government but leaders would also discuss “the question of refusing to allow the Belarusian airline to fly” to the EU, Merkel said.

“Roman Protasevich must be immediately released … The same applies to his partner, Sofia Sapega. This is what we will demand,” Merkel said in her first public comments on the incident.

She also called for an international investigation into the forced landing of the plane, calling the explanations provided by Belarusian authorities “completely implausible.”

Minsk had diverted the Ryanair flight, which was crossing Belarusian airspace on its way from Athens to Vilnius, by claiming there was a bomb threat against the plane.

The EU last year imposed sanctions, involving travel bans and asset freezes, against 55 Belarusian officials including strongman Alexander Lukashenko over accusations of election fraud and repression.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/angela-merkel-calls-for-eu-sanctions-against-belarus-over-ryanair-plane-hijacking/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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