(CNN)President Joe Biden on Monday lambasted Belarus’ sudden grounding of a commercial flight and subsequent arrest of onboard dissident journalist Roman Pratasevich as “a direct affront to international norms.”
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms both the diversion of the plane and the subsequent removal and arrest of Mr. Pratasevich,” Biden said in a statement following the release of a new video with an appearance by Pratasevich that his supporters believe was coerced. “This outrageous incident and the video Mr. Pratasevich appears to have made under duress are shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press.”
Pratasevich was arrested in Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a fighter jet to escort his Ryanair plane to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, according to Pull Pervogo, Belarusian state broadcaster. Ryanair Flight 4978, on which Pratasevich was a passenger, was about to begin its descent to Vilnius in Lithuania on Sunday when it suddenly changed direction after a “security alert,” turning sharply east and descending toward Minsk.
Pratasevich, in exile and a vocal critic of Lukashenko’s regime, was detained at Minsk airport, the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs said Sunday. Whether that security alert was a fabrication by the Belarusian authorities is now at the heart of an incident that has sparked widespread international condemnation and raised serious questions about safety in the skies.
The Belarusian version of events has
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