The Group of Seven (G-7) on Thursday threatened to apply additional sanctions on Belarus over its detention of an opposition journalist this week.
Top diplomats from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S., along with the high representative of the European Union, condemned the detention of Rama Pratasevich, a 26-year-old opposition activist and journalist.
Pratasevich was taken into custody after Belarusian authorities reportedly called in a bomb threat and scrambled a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight traveling from Greece to Lithuania, which the activist and journalist was on, to land once it was in Belarusian airspace.
“This action jeopardized the safety of the passengers and crew of the flight. It was also a serious attack on the rules governing civil aviation. All our countries, and our citizens, depend on every state acting responsibly in fulfilling their duties under the Chicago Convention so that civil aircraft can operate safely and securely. We call on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to urgently address this challenge to its rules and standards,” the group said, referencing the convention that established the rules over airspace.
“This action also represents a serious attack on media freedom. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Raman Pratasevich, as well as all other journalists and political prisoners held in Belarus,” the group added. “We will enhance our efforts, including through further sanctions as appropriate, to promote accountability for the actions of the Belarusian authorities.”
The statement marks the latest rebuke of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled as a dictator since taking over in 1994. Protests erupted last year over Lukashenko’s disputed victory in Belarus’s 2020 presidential race, but a harsh crackdown has quelled most of the demonstrations.
Lukashenko this week defended Pratasevich’s detention, maintaining he “acted lawfully and was protecting the people according to all international rules.”
The European Union has already imposed new economic sanctions on Belarus, and President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act: a bill long overdue MORE suggested the U.S. could slap its own penalties on the country.