Accessibility links

Breaking News

Belarus Aircraft Banned From Flying Over EU

FILE - European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 5, 2021.

The European Union announced Friday it is banning all flights from Belarus from flying over EU airspace and denying them access to all EU airports.

In a statement, EU officials said all EU member states will be required to deny permission to land in, take off from or overfly their territories to any aircraft operated by Belarusian air carriers, including as a marketing carrier. The ban will take effect at midnight Friday, Central European Time.

The move comes in response to the May 23 incident in which Belarus scrambled a fighter jet to order the forced landing of an Irish Ryanair commercial airliner that was traversing Belarusian airspace en route to Lithuainia. Belarus officials took opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich off the plane and have held him ever since.

The regional air traffic agency Eurocontrol reports about 400 civilian planes usually take routes over Belarus. Several European airlines including Lufthansa, SAS and Air France have already announced they would stop flying over its airspace.

Pratasevich appeared on Belarus state television Thursday, tearfully confessing to his role in anti-government protest in an interview that the opposition said was made under duress.

In the interview, Pratasevich admitted to plotting to topple President Alexander Lukashenko by organizing "riots" and recanted earlier criticism of the veteran leader.

Lukashenko's office did not immediately respond to accusations of coercion.