Russia Blocks Flights That Bypass Belarus Following Journalist’s Arrest

Russia has blocked flights from other countries that avoid Belarusian airspace while traveling to Russia after the Belarusian government forced a plane to land and then arrested a prominent opposition journalist.

Journalist Raman Pratasevich was arrested Sunday after Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a fighter jet to intercept the 123-person passenger plane Pratasevich was traveling on. The government forced it to land in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, where Pratasevich and his girlfriend were taken into custody.

Belarusian authorities claimed a bomb threat had been made about the plane, forcing its landing, but officials found no explosives. 

“The United States joins countries around the world in calling for his release, as well as for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners who are being unjustly detained by the Lukashenko regime,” Biden said.

But as the U.S. and European countries have made promises not to travel into Belarusian airspace, Russia ― a key ally of Belarus ― has started denying entry to its own country if flights have avoided Belarus to get there. On Wednesday, Air France cancelled multiple Paris-Moscow flights after Russia declined to approve new routes that would have bypassed Belarus. Austrian Airlines also had at least two flights cancelled after Russia denied it entry over an updated flight plan that would have skipped Belarus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to discuss the ongoing situation with Lukashenko in Sochi on Friday, the BBC reported.

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