Brussels (dpa) – Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has called for the immediate release of blogger Roman Protasevich, who was arrested after a forced landing in Belarus. “Roman Protasevich must be released immediately,” Merkel demanded on Monday evening ahead of the EU’s special summit in Brussels. He added that this also applied to his partner. Merkel criticized the “unprecedented action of the Belarusian authorities” and spoke of a forced landing. “All other explanations for this landing of the Ryanair plane are utterly unlikely.”
Authorities in the Republic of Belarus had shot down a Ryanair plane carrying more than 100 passengers from Athens to Vilnius on Sunday, allegedly due to a bomb threat. A MiG-29 fighter jet was also deployed, as confirmed by the Minsk military. According to the Vesna human rights center, Protasevich, a blogger wanted internationally by Lukashenko, was also on board and was arrested in Minsk.
EU states would jointly demand the release of those arrested, Merkel announced. In addition, the heads of state and government intended to discuss possible punitive measures. No doubt this would include the inclusion of more people on the list of EU sanctions already facing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. However, a flight ban could also be devised for the Belarusian airline and an international investigation into the incident could be called for.