The European Union decided to close its airspace to aircraft belonging to airlines in Belarus, in response to diverting a plane to Minsk to arrest an opposition journalist.
At a meeting in Brussels, the leaders of the 27 member states of the European Union agreed to prevent airlines in the bloc from using Belarusian airspace, pledging to impose new economic sanctions on them.
Roman Protasevic, 26, was on a plane from Greece to Lithuania when the plane was forced to change course, under the pretext of suspicion of a bomb on board.
Western countries accused Belarus of hijacking the European plane of the “Ryanair” company.
Protasevic appeared for the first time since his arrest at Minsk Airport in a video that appears to have been coerced into being recorded.
In the video, released Monday, the journalist said he was in good health and confessed to what appeared to be crimes that the Belarusian government has accused him of being involved in.
But activists, including the leader of the opposition in Belarus, believe that the video in which Protasevic appears was recorded under pressure exerted by the authorities on him to admit to these crimes.
US President Joe Biden described the Belarusian measures as “disgraceful,” saying they were “shameful attacks on political opposition and freedom of the press.”
The father of the arrested journalist expressed to the BBC his concerns about the possibility of his son being tortured.
Dmitry Protasevic said he was “very afraid” about the way his son might be treated by the authorities in his country.
He added, “We are afraid even to think about that, as he may be beaten or tortured, and we are very afraid that this will happen.”
He continued, “It was a great shock to us, and we are very concerned. I believe that this kind of practice should not happen in the twenty-first century in the heart of Europe.”