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The UK has banned Belarus’ national airline from its airspace, in response to the diversion of a Ryanair flight to enable the arrest of an opponent of the country’s regime.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also instructed the Civil Aviation Authority to request UK airlines avoid Belarusian airspace in order to keep passengers safe.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, told MPs the Belarus government “must be held to account for such reckless and dangerous behaviour”.
On Sunday a Ryanair flight from Athens, Greece, to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius was ordered to change course to head for the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
The opposition in Belarus and western officials have denounced the incident on Sunday, which led to the arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich.
Pratasevich is a prominent opponent of Belarus’ authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko and could face 15 years in jail if convicted of several charges.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said it was a “state-sponsored hijacking” and claimed agents from Russia’s KGB were also on board the flight.
Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has said the forced landing of the Ryanair flight was state-sponsored “aviation piracy”.
Raab also said further sanctions were being considered against the Lukashenko administration and Belarus’ ambassador in London had been summoned for a dressing down.
“We are urgently seeking full details of precisely what took place in relation to Flight FR4978 but the scenario as reported is a shocking assault on civil aviation and an assault on international law,” he said.
“It represents a danger to civilian flights everywhere and it is an egregious and extraordinary departure from the international law and the international practice that guides international civil aviation under the Chicago Convention.”
Mr Raab called for the release of Mr Protasevich from the “spurious charges” he faces.
“Mr Lukashenko’s regime must be held to account for such reckless and dangerous behaviour,” he added.
The UK was working to explore “every potential diplomatic option” and was “actively considering and co-ordinating with our allies on further sanctions on those responsible for this outlandish conduct”.