Biden vows to hold Belarus accountable for diverting plane carrying activist

Biden vows to hold Belarus accountable for diverting plane carrying activist
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President BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE on Monday denounced the forced diversion of a flight over Belarus for the purpose of detaining opposition journalist and activist Raman Pratasevich, saying his administration is considering the appropriate response against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

Biden called the diversion of a Ryanair flight headed from Greece to Lithuania "a direct affront to international norms" and called for Pratasevich's release.

"I join the many calls for an international investigation to ascertain the complete facts of the case. I welcome the news that the European Union has called for targeted economic sanctions and other measures, and have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations," Biden said in a statement.

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"For months, the Belarusian people have made their voices heard—demanding democracy, respect for human rights, and the preservation of fundamental freedoms," he added. "I applaud the courage and determination of Belarusians fighting for basic rights, including journalists like Raman Pratasevich and opposition leaders like Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her husband, Syarhey Tsikhanouski. The United States will continue to stand with the people of Belarus in their struggle."

When the flight landed after Belarusian air traffic control sent out a security alert, 26-year-old opposition activist and journalist Rama Pratasevich was detained. Pratasevich fled the country in 2019 and has become an influential opposition voice against Lukashenko.

National security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanBiden walks fine line with Fox News US delegation departs Haiti after reports of gunshots at ex-president's funeral No. 2 State Department official to travel to China amid tensions MORE also spoke with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and condemned the incident on the Ryanair flight. Sullivan "made clear that the United States, in coordination with the EU and other allies and partners, will hold the Lukashenka regime to account," according to a readout of the call.

The diversion of the flight, which was reportedly also carrying Belarusian agents, drew international condemnation.

European Union leaders on Monday said they would impose additional economic sanctions on Belarus.

The United Kingdom directed its airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace in response to the incident. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda urged the EU to levy additional sanctions against Lukashenko in response to the diversion. European Union leaders have said they are considering additional 

Ryanair condemned the incident as a "state-sponsored hijacking."