Civilians hauled off forcibly landed plane in Belarus
In the biggest foreign policy story of the day, the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus forced a Ryanair flight travelling from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk yesterday citing a bomb threat as justification. The civilian airliner was intercepted by a Mig-29 fighter jet and ordered to land immediately. Upon touching down, the plane was reportedly boarded by Belarusian KGB agents who seized Roman Protasevich, a journalist who supports the Belarus opposition, as well as a female companion (and possibly others). Protasevich is wanted in Belarus on charges of extremism and may face the death penalty. Incredibly, Ryanair’s press statement
on the matter made no mention of the passengers who were forcibly removed from the plane.
Western leaders have strongly condemned the action, which has been widely deemed a hijacking. In a statement issued this morning, Dominic Raab
said Lukashenko ‘must be held to account for his outlandish actions’ and that the UK was working with allies on a coordinated response which would include sanctions. Tom Tugendhat
joined with his counterparts in several other countries to issue a joint statement calling for Belarus to be suspended from the International Civil Aviation Organisation, all overflights to cease and branded the event an ‘act of piracy’. You can find a full write-up of the incident here
by the Daily Mail
, including the reactions of a wide range of international leaders.
British Carrier Strike Group begins maiden voyage
At long last, the UK Carrier Strike Group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth has set sail on its far-reaching maiden voyage. The voyage, expected to take seven months, will head through the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and then head north through the South China Sea up to Japan. Paying a farewell visit to the vessel, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was sent off afterwards with three cheers
from the crew. You can find full details of the deployment here
Commenting on the operation for the Daily Mail
, James Rogers noted the difficulties the task force may come across as adversaries attempt to ‘harry’ the voyage. Admiral Tony Radakin, however, has been criticised for possibly downplaying the difficulties China and Russia may try to create, calling them ‘responsible nations’. Read on here
And in comments which may be received with aghast in the United States, speaking to the Portsmouth News
, the top US officer onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth has called the vessel the ‘nicest ship I have been on’ and playfully said ‘don’t tell anybody back home.’