G7 foreign ministers condemn Belarus, threaten further sanctions

The ICAO headquarters in Montreal Canada

The ICAO headquarters in Montreal Canada

Russian Federation said Friday that Western countries were being irresponsible and endangering passengers by banning flights over Belarus in response to President Alexander Lukashenko's forced grounding of a Ryanair flight.

Under the 1944 convention that established the ICAO, every state has sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. It was also a serious attack on the rules governing civil aviation.

Sapega, a 23-year-old law student at the European Humanities University (EHU) in Lithuania, appeared in another video on Tuesday saying she worked for a Telegram channel that disclosed information about Belarusian law enforcement.

Lukashenko on Wednesday denied that the fighter jet had forced the airliner to land, calling such claims an "absolute lie".

Protasevich, who helped organise historic demonstrations against Lukashenko's long rule previous year, was arrested along with his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23.

The call for action against Lukashenko follows the detention of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich on Sunday after his plane was ordered to land in the Belarusian capital of Minsk while it was crossing through the country's airspace.

The ICAO, of which Belarus is a member, has no power to order sanctions and Russia's support for Minsk means the U.N. Security Council is unlikely to agree on a collective statement. But European leaders this week agreed to cut air links with Belarus and told airlines to avoid the country's airspace.

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On Thursday, Austrian Airlines said it had cancelled a Vienna-Moscow flight after Russian authorities did not approve a route change for it to avoid Belarusian airspace.

His father Dmitry Protasevich said that his son's lawyer was told that the journalist was not in his detention cell.

Lithuanian police chief Rolandas Kiskis told reporters:"We are working to confirm the identities, whether the persons who were named in unofficial sources are matched by personal identification data".

The ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States, along with the European Union "condemn in the strongest terms the unprecedented action by the Belarusian authorities", the statement added.

Last year's protests lasted for months, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to denounce Lukashenko, but were brutally quashed and thousands were detained - many of whom reported torture and abuse in custody.

Several people died in the unrest, with many reporting torture and abuse in custody. So far, you have blatantly ignored the democratic choice of the Belarusian people. The UN Security Council is set to meet behind closed doors later on Wednesday.

Speaking to the European Parliament via video link on Wednesday, Tikhanovskaya called for a series of concrete measures, including a ban on new foreign investments and on Belarus's main exports like oil and metal products, potash fertilisers and wood.

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