An open letter to the U.S. Congress

Lukashenka grounds a Ryanair flight to arrest a journalist

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On May 23, 2021, faking a bomb threat and using a military fighter jet, Belarus forced a Ryanair plane flying over its territory en route from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania to land in Minsk. The plane, which had almost reached Lithuania, was rerouted to Minsk on demands of the Belarusian dispatchers. One of the passengers was Raman Pratasevich, 26, an independent blogger and journalist, one of the harshest critics of the Lukashenka regime, who now lives in Lithuania. Before boarding the flight in Athens, Raman suspected that he was followed and shared his concerns with his friends. Once the flight landed in Minsk, Raman was swiftly arrested by the KGB. “They will execute me”, were the words he uttered to other passengers before he was escorted away. This illegal abduction of passengers of an international flight to arrest a journalist is an escalation requiring immediate action from the international community. It continues to show that Lukashenka’s regime is a security threat not just to the Belarusians, forced to endure brutal oppression on a daily basis, but to the entire world and especially the U.S. allies in the region. We urge you to hold a hearing on the situation in Belarus and advocate for harsh economic sanctions against the Lukashenka regime and designation of its repressive security forces, namely, the KGB, Ministry of Internal Affairs (the Belarusian police), GUBOPiK, Operations and Analysis Center, Investigative Committee, as terrorist organizations. Without swift and decisive action from the U.S. and its allies, the Lukashenka regime will continue dangerously escalating and destabilizing the region.

First sent on May 23 by Free Belarus Coalition

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