Blinken calls for release of activist detained by Belarus

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Belarus' diversion of a commercial plane and subsequent arrest of opposition leader Raman Pratasevich in a statement Sunday, and called for Pratasevich's "immediate release."

State of play: Blinken said the U.S. is working with its partners to coordinate a response and he supports the "the earliest possible meeting" of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate the matter.

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The big picture: A Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania was forced by Belarusian air control to land in Belarus' capital Minsk Sunday, under the pretext of a "a potential security risk on board."

  • Belarusian authorities then detained Pratasevich, a journalist and activist who was critical in organizing mass anti-government protests in Belarus last year.

  • Belarus' actions have been described a "hijacking" by some European leaders, who have vowed the country will face consequences.

What they're saying: "The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk. We demand his immediate release," Blinken said in the statement.

  • "This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens."

The bottom line: "The United States once again condemns the Lukashenka regime's ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists," Blinken said.

  • "We stand with the Belarusian people in their aspirations for a free, democratic, and prosperous future and support their call for the regime to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms."

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