Government bars all Belarusian flights from Estonian airspace

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Tallinn Aiport. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The government has decided to bar all Belarusian airlines and aircraft from flying in Estonian airspace, following last Sunday's hijacking and forced landing of a civilian airliner by authorities from that country. European Union member states have also called for a general flight ban on Belarus, across the bloc.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) had already said Thursday that the Belarusian national carrier, Belavia, was forbidden to land at Estonian airports, while the government decision now is to bar all Belarusian airlines and aircraft from landing in Estonia, departing Estonia or flying in Estonian airspace, the government office says.

The prime minister says the recent actions by Belarus pose a threat to international peace and security, and constitute state terrorism.

"With the hijacking of a passenger plane flying between Athens and Vilnius, and the arrest of a journalist critical of the government, and his companion, the Belarusian regime has committed a state act of terrorism, and must take responsibility for these acts," Kallas said.

On the pretext of a bomb threat, the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius was diverted to Minsk while it was still in Belarusian airspace, and escorted by at least one MiG-29 fighter jet.

Of the over 100 passengers on board, opposition leader and blogger Roman Protasevich, together with his partner, Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, was flying and his presence is thought to have prompted the hijack.

Protasevich, 26, remains incarcerated, and Sapega has also been detained.

Kaja Kallas also said the EU is preparing further sanctions on Belarusian individuals and companies closely related to the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko, along with more economic sanctions, following a European Council meeting on May 24 to that effect.

Leaders of various member states have also called on the European Council to impose an EU-wide flight ban on Belarusian aircraft and airlines.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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