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Russia Blocks European Flights

EU meeting to consider sanctions after Ryanair hijacking
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2021 4:08 PM CDT

(Newser) – Russia has expressed its support for Belarus by refusing to let at least two European airlines' flights land in Moscow. Austrian Airlines and Air France announced the cancellations, saying permission from Russia was denied, per CNN; Russia had no comment. Both airlines wanted to change the routes to avoid crossing over Belarus, which used a fighter jet Sunday to force a Ryanair flight to land in Minsk. Belarus then took a dissident on board into custody. The European Union, which considers the action a hijacking, had asked airlines to avoid Belarus airspace; there's been little traffic over the country since Sunday, per CBS. In addition, airlines registered in Belarus have been barred from European airports. Belarus, in turn, canceled a series of flights. Putin and President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus are allies.

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The parents of the detainee, Roman Pratasevich, asked President Biden on Thursday to intervene more forcefully against Belarus. Pratasevich's supporters said he appeared in a video released Monday to have been tortured. His mother, Natalia, called on other nations to pressure Lukashenko to "stop torturing the wonderful young bright youths and stop the evil things he's doing." EU leaders are meeting about sanctions in Portugal, where Luxembourg has suggested moving against Belarus' potash exports. Germany advocates a much broader action. ''It is clear that we will not be satisfied with small sanctions steps, but that we aim to target the economic structure and financial transactions in Belarus significantly with sanctions," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. (Read more Belarus stories.)

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