Belarus: ‘We're now at a new level of confrontation’ warns expert
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Belarus, Russia and the West have entered into a dangerous new cycle of escalation following the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk according to the former British ambassador to the country. Nigel Gould-Davies was invited on to Sky News to discuss the incident which saw opposition activist Roman Protasevich removed from the flight after the plan was intercepted by a Belursian warplane.
Mr Gould-Davies told Sky News that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has become an “international threat.”
He said “The forced downing of the plane tells us that he, having been until now a threat to his own people, has become an international threat as well.
“It was an absolutely outrageous and unprecedented event.
“It also shows us that he himself does not feel secure if he has to go to such extraordinary lengths and incur international outrage to detain a single dissident journalist who has been based overseas.
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“So that tells us something important about his regime.
“I think we can be impressed about the scale and speed so far of the international reaction.
“The EU has moved very quickly on this, the UK as well.
“I hope we will see further actions announced in due course, the United States is fully behind us as well.
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“So it tells us that we are now at a new level of confrontation, unfortunately.
“In what is a very difficult situation.”
It comes as the UK Foreign Office condemned the diversion of Ryanair Flight FR4978 on May 23 to Minsk, Belarus and calls on Belarusian authorities to release Roman Protasevich.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK is alarmed by reports of the arrest of NEXTA journalist Roman Protasevich and circumstances that led to his flight being forced to land in Minsk.
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“We are coordinating with our allies. This outlandish action by Lukashenko will have serious implications.”
European leaders have voted to impose a string of travel restrictions on Belarus after the country’s Kremlin-aligned leader Alexander Lukashenko forced the Ryanair passenger flight to redirect to Minsk.
Once the jet had landed in the Belarusian capital dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partners were removed from the plane and taken away.
In response, the EU announced on Monday that Belarusian airlines had been banned from the bloc’s airspace and airports.
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