Airlines: Russia attempts to retaliate

Brussels 28.05.2021 Airlines revealed Russia has blocked some European flights avoiding Belarus airspace in a standoff over the arrest of a Belarusian journalist, as his parents pleaded Thursday for international help to get him released.

The G7 global powers also demanded Minsk release Roman Protasevich and the EU’s foreign policy chief threatened hard-hitting economic sanctions.

Belarus’s strongman President Alexander Lukashenko sparked international outrage by dispatching a fighter jet Sunday to intercept a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying Roman Protasevich, 26, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23.

A nervous-looking Protasevich was last seen in a video released by Belarusian authorities on Monday in which he was seen supposedly admitting to helping to organise mass unrest, a charge that could land him in jail for 15 years.

“I want you to relay our appeal everywhere, throughout the world, to government representatives, to EU countries, to EU leaders, to US leaders: I am appealing, I am begging, help me free my son,” his mother Natalia told journalists in Warsaw, visibly moved.

Roman’s father, Dmitry said his son was “a tough man” and “a hero”. After almost three decades of service in Belarus armed forces Dmitry was sacked by Lukashenko order as a demonstrative punitive measure for his son’s political activity.

“Throughout his life he fought for the truth and passed it on to people, which is why Lukashenko committed this despicable act,” he said.

The family and their lawyer confirmed that they have not had any communication with their son since his arrest.

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Thursday, May 27, demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of Protasevich, “as well as all other journalists and political prisoners held in Belarus”, in a joint statement published by the British government.