MOSCOW - A defiant President Alexander Lukashenko addressed the parliament Wednesday morning to defend the forced diversion of a Ryanair plane to Minsk, which further pushed Belarus on the path of becoming an worldwide pariah.
Belarusian planes also faced a possible ban from flying to European Union cities, which could leave landlocked Belarus only able to reach its territory via its eastern border with its close ally Russian Federation.
Biden made the statement - and joined calls for an worldwide investigation - as the European Union imposed sanctions against Belarus, including banning its airlines from using the airspace and airports in the 27-nation bloc in reaction to Sunday's forced diversion of the Lithuania-bound Ryanair flight.
The Athens-to-Vilnius flight carrying a wanted opposition activist Roman Protasevich was forced to make a landing in Minsk on Sunday over a supposed bomb scare, prompting several European Union carriers to stop flights over Belarus.
Biden in his statement also expressed outrage over a video statement from Raman Pratasevich, who ran a popular messaging app that played a key role in helping organize massive protests against Belarus authoritarian leader President Alexander Lukashenko, that aired on Belarusian state television Monday night.
Journalist Roman Protasevich was on board RyanAir Flight 4978 from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday when the plane made an unexpected landing in the Belarus capital.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy call on Ukrainian journalists, representatives of human rights organizations, and civil society activists to refrain from traveling to Belarus, given the threat and unpredictability of actions by its authorities.
In the video, Protasevich, 26, said he was being treated in accordance with the law and confessed to having organized riots.
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The video first appeared after independent media in Belarus suggested Protasevich was hospitalized suffering from a heart problem. A Belarusian Mig-29 fighter jet was also dispatched to escort the flight.
We understand that Mr Protasevich was detained on spurious charges. "They're going to kill him in there".
RyanAir CEO Michael O'Leary told Irish radio on Monday that the incident was essentially "state-sponsored hijacking". "There's nothing more to wait for - we have to stop the terror once and for all".
It highlighted the foiling of a recent coup attempt involving military forces in Belarus and a plan to assassinate Mr Lukashenko, saying they were "a reminder of interventions in Latin American countries".
Protasevich was a founder of the Telegram-based news channel NEXTA, which played a crucial role during the mass protests previous year against Lukashenko. Those carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years, and some fear Protasevich could face more serious charges, including some that carry the death penalty. The channel has about 1.2 million subscribers.
Sapega's mother, Anna Dudich, said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that her daughter was innocent and simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sapega, 23, is a Russian citizen, studying at a university in Vilnius.
The EU, as well as the United States, called on Lukashenko's government to immediately release Pratasevich.