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Government to table 'strongly-worded' Dáil motion on Belarus today

There has been a growing diplomatic row after Belarus diverted a Ryanair civilian plane and arrested an opposition journalist.

Members of the Belarusian community in Ireland take part in protest outside the GPO in Dublin.
Members of the Belarusian community in Ireland take part in protest outside the GPO in Dublin.
Image: PA Images

THE GOVERNMENT IS to bring a motion before the Dáil tomorrow on the diplomatic crisis with Belarus after a Ryanair passenger plane was diverted to Belarusian soil, leading to the arrests of an opposition journalist and his Russian girlfriend.

Speaking to The Journal, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney said that he was sponsoring the “strongly-worded” motion being tabled by the Government. 

There has been international condemnation of Belarus’ “state-sponsored hijacking” of the civilian flight; Belarus and Russia have claimed that there had been a legitimate bomb threat on board the flight.

While the flight and luggage were checked, Belarusian authorities arrested 26-year-old journalist Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega, aged 23. Last week, videos emerged of the pair apparently ‘confessing’ to charges of organising mass unrest.

The EU has taken swift action against Belarus as a result: it has banned Belarusian airlines from flying in the airspace of the 27 EU member states and prevented them from landing at airports in the EU. 

“This really crossed the line,” Coveney said. “This was an EU commercial airline full of EU citizens, travelling from one EU capital to another – from Athens to Vilnius.

This was a brazen and blatant act of piracy in the sky, if you like, where a pilot and his crew were lied to, were told they needed to turn around for security reasons.

Coveney said that the Ryanair flight was closer to Vilnius than to Minsk when a fighter plane escorted it to the Belarusian capital, where it remained for several hours before continuing to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

The UN civil aviation agency announced on Friday that it would investigate the facts surrounding the diversion of the plane travelling between two EU countries.

“The EU can simply not allow that to happen in the airspace of a country that’s right on our borders. I think they were right to take strong action quickly, and I’d say the EU is likely to take further action,” the Foreign Minister said.

On Saturday, a protest was held at the GPO in Dublin in solidarity with political prisoners in Belarus. Banners held included slogans such as ‘Pray for Belarus’, ‘Stop Terror In Belarus’, ‘Support The People of Belarus’ and ‘Putin, hands off of Belarus… and take your dog’ with a caricature of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

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