Polish PM to call on EU to suspend all EU-Belarus flights

Morawiecki said that the aircraft was forced to land "under the pretext of a false bomb threat." Tomasz Waszczuk/PAP

Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister, has announced that he will call on the European Council to suspend all EU-Belarus flights.

The prime minister was speaking a day after Belarusian authorities forced a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius to land at Minsk because of an alleged bomb threat.

Once on the ground, Roman Protasevich, a key opposition activist, and his partner were arrested.

Protasevich is a co-founder of the Telegram messaging app's Nexta channel, which Belarus last year deemed an extremist organisation after it was used to help organise major protests against the president, Alexander Lukashenko.

"In order to clearly respond to this act of international terrorism, an act of state terrorism, of incredible state terrorism, committed by Belarus, I will call today on the European Council to suspend all EU-Belarus flights," Morawiecki said.

He added that the aircraft was forced to land "under the pretext of a false bomb threat."

According to Morawiecki, an additional condition for lifting the flight ban alongside Protasevich's release should be the freeing of recently imprisoned activists of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), the largest Polish organisation in Belarus, which is unrecognised by the Lukashenko regime. Among the detainees is the union's leader, Andzelika Borys.

Morawiecki said that the imprisoned ZBP activist are "loyal Belarusian citizens," who were imprisoned only because they propagated Polish culture.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said on Monday that he had discussed the matter with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, whom he assured of Poland's resoluteness in effecting Protasevich's release.

"I spoke with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya about Poland's... condemnation of this act of state-level terrorism committed by the Belarusian authorities. I expressed solidarity with Belarusian democrats," Rau wrote on Twitter.