The diversion by Belarus of a Ryanair flight to a forced landing in Minsk was air piracy, Bulgaria’s caretaker Foreign Minister Svetlan Stoev said on May 25.
Belarus authorities diverted a Greece-Lithuania flight on May 23 to the airport in the country’s capital city and arrested journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, actions that have led to widespread condemnation.
Stoev said that in addition to the forced landing of the aircraft, the question arose about the personal data of the passengers.
“How are these personal data obtained, how are they provided to the relevant services, who has the right to hold them and, accordingly, if this becomes a practice, we face new challenges in air transport,” he said.
The ambassador of Belarus in Sofia, Alexander Lukashevich, was summoned to a meeting on May 25 at 9am with the head of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry’s bilateral relations directorate, Vasily Takev.
Lukashevich was asked for explanations regarding the forced landing of the Ryanair flight and the arrest of Protasevich.
The explanations he presented were not accepted by Bulgaria, the Foreign Ministry said.
Bulgaria supports the request for an immediate and swift investigation of the case by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The actions of the Belarusian authorities were described as absolutely unacceptable and “a gross violation of the rules of international aviation and flagrant disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms of passengers,” the ministry said.
Lukashevich was repeatedly told at the meeting that Bulgaria wanted Protasevich released and a careful assessment of the negative consequences for Belarus’ relations with the EU.
The ambassador undertook to convey the position expressed by Bulgaria, the statement said.
The forced landing of the aircraft and the detention of Protasevich and Sapega were strongly condemned by the European Council on May 24.
The European Council demanded their immediate release and a guarantee of their freedom of movement.
It called for an investigation by the ICAO, called on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus and called for the EU to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines.
It also called for additional people and entities to be sanctioned, and asked the EU foreign policy chief and European Commission to propose further targeted economic sanctions.
The European Council said that it stood in solidarity following the unjustified expulsion of Latvian diplomats.
Deutsche Welle’s English-language service reported on May 25 that several European airlines had announced on Tuesday that they were suspending flights over Belarus.
(Photo: Dirk Daniel Mann, via Pixabay)
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