The mother of the Belarusian journalist detained in the country after her flight was forced to land shared her anguish over the situation – and called for help from international leaders.
Roman ProtasevichNatalia’s mother begged the “whole world and all governments” “to hear the cry of my heart, to see the mother’s tears and to help her”.
It comes as the G7 and the European Union have issued a joint statement condemning the actions of the Belarusian government under the president Alexander Lukashenko.
The 26-year-old Ryanair plane Mr Potasevich was traveling with his girlfriend and more than 100 other passengers was made to land in Belarusian capital Minsk Sunday.
The plane had traveled from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, before it was ordered to land in Belarus, while being in the shadow of fighter jets.
A tearful Ms. Protasevich added: “Please understand that every day, every hour, every minute of delay is worth the lives of both my son and the young people who are now behind prison bars. Please save them.”
In a joint statement, the group of countries which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union, said it “condemns in the strongest terms the unprecedented action of the Belarusian authorities”.
They added: “This action also represents a serious attack on media freedom. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Roman Protasevich, as well as all other journalists and political prisoners detained in Belarus.
“We will intensify our efforts, including through further sanctions, where appropriate, to promote accountability for the actions of Belarusian authorities.”
Lukashenko, who ruled the former Soviet nation with an iron fist for more than a quarter of a century, relentlessly stifled dissent during his tenure.
This includes in last year’s elections, which saw protests on the country’s streets and the opposition leader flee amid contested results.
The 66-year-old said the flight was hijacked because of a bomb threat sent from Switzerland.
However, Switzerland-based secure email provider Proton said the email in question was sent after the hijacking of the plane – and that it would support European authorities “upon receipt of a legal request.”
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European countries have moved ban their airlines from flying to or over Belarus, and are also working to prevent state flights from heading for mainland skies.
Further sanctions, including on large exports of potash fertilizers from Belarus, are under consideration – with the EU claiming the bloc imported â¬ 1.2 billion (Â£ 1 billion) from the Lukashenko regime l ‘last year.