Albania, along with other European Union Candidate Countries North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, has introduced a ban on Belarusian flights in their airspace or using their airports.
The decision, announced yesterday, brings their position in line with an EU decision taken on 4 June 2021 by the European Council and all Member States.
The Council decided to strengthen existing restrictive measures in relation to the situation in Belarus. As such, they introduced a ban on the overflight of EU airspace and access to EU airports by Belarusian carriers of all kinds.
In addition to the Candidate Countries, EFTA countries such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and members of the EEA have also aligned themselves with the decision.
The European Union welcomed the decision.
On 24 May, a Ryanair flight travelling from Greece to Lithuania was diverted and forced to land in Minsk for several hours. Officers of the Belarus KBG entered the plane and arrested Roman Protasevich, a journalist who has been an outspoken critique of Lukashenko’s regime.
On 25 May, pro-government channels in Belarus posted a video of Protasevich where he confessed to the allegations against him for “plotting riots.” While Protasevich also said that he was being treated “lawfully,” there are serious concerns that his confession was coerced. Protasevich’s father spoke to Reuters after the video’s release, stating that his son looked beaten and his nose seemed broken.
The European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom strongly condemned the diversion of the flight by the Belarusian authorities and the arrest of Protasevich.
European Council President Charles Michel stated that “[The EU] won’t tolerate that one can try to play Russian roulette with the lives of innocent civilians.”
“This is an attack on democracy and freedom of expression” said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.