Mon, 15 July 2024

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Boris Johnson Warns Belarus Will Face "Consequences" Over Arrest Of Journalist Roman Protasevich

2 min read

The Prime Minister has ramped up pressure on Belarus as he called for the immediate release of the dissident journalist Roman Protasevich.

Johnson's comments come after the UK ordered British airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace and blocked all flights between the two countries.

But in a further warning, Johnson said the country's actions would have further "consequences" unless they immediately released Protasevich.

The dissident journalist and activist was arrested by state security officials on Sunday after the Ryanair aircraft he was travelling on was forced to redirect to the capital, Minsk.

It is believed Belarusian air traffic control had issued a fake bomb warning to pilots on the Greece to Lithuania flight, forcing them to land in the country where Protasevish was then arrested.

The journalist, who could face the death penalty for allegedly helping aide protests in the country against President Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has ruled the country since 1994.

On Tuesday, Belarusian officials released a video of Protasevich claiming he was in good health and was being treated lawfully.

But the PM said the clip, in which the journalist admits he attended the protests, made for "deeply distressing viewing".

"As a journalist and a passionate believer in freedom of speech I call for his immediate release," Johnson added.

"Belarus' actions will have consequences."

On Monday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hit out at the country for their "shocking assault on civil aviation" as he warned Lukashenko would be "held to account for his outlandish actions".

He added: "The UK calls for the immediate release of Mr Protasevich and other political prisoners held in Belarus."

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said forcing the passenger plane to the ground amounted to a "state-sponsored hijacking".

He added: "It was clear it appears that the intent of the Russian authorities was to remove a journalist and his travelling companion. We believe there was also some KGB agents offloaded from the aircraft as well."

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