A Day After a Belarusian Dissident's 'Confession,' His Girlfriend Makes Her Own

Airport personnel and security forces are seen on the tarmac in front of a Ryanair flight which was forced to land in Minsk Belarus

Belarusian authorities said Monday that Protasevich was not hospitalized and was being held in a detention center in Minsk, a claim that could not be verified from the video.

Biden made the statement - and joined calls for an worldwide investigation - as the European Union imposed sanctions against Belarus, including banning its airlines from using the airspace and airports in the 27-nation bloc in reaction to Sunday's forced diversion of the Lithuania-bound Ryanair flight.

Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and took his sixth consecutive term previous year after an election period marred by a brutal crackdown on mass protests against the leader. Mr. Protasevich - the 26-year-old co-founder of Opposition Telegram channel Nexta - and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested after the plane landed. "There are no refutations yet", Peskov said.

"As we predicted, our ill-wishers from outside the country and from inside the country changed their methods of attack on the state".

"The detention of Mr. Protasevich is an affront to the principles of political dissent and freedom of the press", the NAC said, calling on Belarus to respect worldwide law and human rights.

In a long, rambling speech to lawmakers and top officials, President Alexander Lukashenko defended his decision to tell the Ryanair flight to land in his country, maintaining his contention that there was a bomb threat against it.

Airlines Avoid Belarusian Airspace over Plane Diversion, Arrest of Journalist
He is now being held in Belarus on terrorism charges. "It's very hard for me", she said, her voice cracking. He is said to have volunteered as a photographer and worked in a press capacity for the organisation.

"They have moved from organising riots to strangulation".

- "They're going to kill him" - Protasevich's mother told AFP in Poland that she had not slept since he was arrested.

"They're going to kill him in there". Protasevich faces up to 15 years in jail on charges of organizing mass unrest. "We don't want it, we have had enough of it, but because you in the West are giving us no other choice", he said.

He threatened that Belarus would now retaliate by weakening its border controls that halt Western-bound illegal migration and drug trafficking.

"Our measures would be quite painful for the countries that have taken an openly hostile stance - from import bans to restrictions on transit", he said.

EASA's intervention on safety grounds is separate from the ministerial threat of political sanctions and includes non-EU airlines that continue in some cases to fly over Belarus - part of the main corridor between Asia and Europe. "We must do everything to prevent it to become a real war". The program is part of European Union efforts to help Belarus and other ex-Soviet nations distance themselves from Moscow's influence and integrate into the West.

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