Belarus flights redirected after Roman Protasevich’s arrest
Several European airlines have said that they will not fly over Belarus, days after a dissident journalist was arrested on a flight diverted to Minsk.
Ukraine and Poland are stopping all flights to and from the country, while the UK is preventing Belarusian airlines from entering its airspace.
Western countries accuse Belarus of hijacking the Ryanair plane carrying journalist Roman Protasevich on Sunday.
The Greece-Lithuania flight was rerouted over a supposed bomb threat.
Belarus authorities on Monday released video of Mr Protasevich that appears to have been recorded under duress.
He faces charges related to his reporting of last August’s disputed election and subsequent crackdown on mass opposition protests, and has said he fears the death penalty after being placed on a terrorism list.
Belarus is the only European country that still executes prisoners.
At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, the leaders of the 27 European Union member states called for the overflight ban, and promised further economic sanctions.
On Tuesday, the Belarusian transport ministry released a transcript of a conversation said to be between an air traffic controller in Minsk and a pilot on Sunday’s Ryanair flight.
According to the transcript, which has not been independently verified, Belarus suggested several times that the plane should land in Minsk on “our recommendation”.
This appeared to contradict earlier statements from the Belarusian authorities that said the decision to land was made independently by the pilot.
What’s happening in the air?
At the Brussels summit, EU leaders told the bloc’s airlines not to fly over Belarus.
They have also asked member states to suspend operating permits for its national carrier Belavia.
Air France said it had “suspended overflights of Belarusian airspace until further notice”. Finnish airline Finnair also announced a ban.
Air France’s Dutch subsidiary KLM, along with German carrier Lufthansa, Scandinavia’s SAS and others, announced similar suspensions on Monday.
Singapore Airlines also said it was rerouting flights to avoid Belarus.
Meanwhile, Polish national airline Lot said it had suspended both overflights and flights to and from Minsk, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukrainian carriers were banned from flying over or into Belarus.
The UK, meanwhile, said Belarusian airlines would not be allowed to enter its airspace unless they had specific authorisation.
Belavia said it was suspending flights to the UK and France until 30 October.
Belarus, though not in the EU, borders three EU countries. Many flights to and from Asia as well as within Europe use its airspace.
Earlier on Tuesday, European Council President Charles Michel shared a map of air traffic taken from the flight tracking website Flightradar24 in which there appeared to be no planes in Belarusian airspace. Some flights, however, have continued throughout the day.
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Some 400 flights use Belarusian airspace daily and 100 of these are by EU or UK carriers, according to the European air traffic agency, Eurocontrol. It has urged the airlines concerned to reroute through nearby countries.