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US, European nations call for investigation into Belarus plane diversion at UN Security Council

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In this photo provided by ONLINER.BY, Ryanair plane SP-RSM, diverted Minsk International airport, Sunday, May 23, 2021..
In this photo provided by ONLINER.BY, Ryanair plane SP-RSM, diverted Minsk International airport, Sunday, May 23, 2021..   -   Copyright  AP/ONLINER.BY
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Western nations on Wednesday demanded the International Civil Aviation Organisation investigate the forced diversion of a plane by Belarusian authorities.

In a joint statement following a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council's permanent members on the incident, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, the UK and the US, reiterated their condemnation of Belarus.

"The airplane, owned by a European Union company, carrying more than 100 passengers from one EU Member State’s capital to another, was forced to land based on false grounds by a Belarusian military aircraft.

"These acts are a blatant attack on international civilian aviation safety and on European security and show flagrant disregard for international law."

They demanded that the International Civil Aviation Organization "urgently investigate this unprecedented and unacceptable incident and for full accountability for those responsible" as well as the "immediate release" of journalist Roman Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofi Sapega.

Both were detained after the flight was grounded. Pratasevich, 26, runs a message app channel that was seen as key to the massive mobilisation against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko following the August election ruled fraudulent by the West.

Their continued detention was described by the Western countries as "yet another blatant attempt by the Belarusian authorities to silence all opposition voices."

The Belarusian government rejects any criticism, arguing it adhered to international law and diverted the plane over a bomb threat. It accused the West of politicising the incident and of trying to "strangle" the country.

It has been backed by Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "Is there any reason for this incident to be considered not from the point of view of an investigation in the context of aviation security and flight safety, but from a purely political point of view?".

Permanent members of the Security Council -- which include China, France, Russia, the UK and US -- have the right to veto any procedure brought forward.