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Belarus arrest of pro-democracy activist ‘abhorrent’: Lithuania president

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[FILES] Law enforcement officers patrol the street in Minsk, on March 25, 2021. – Scattered groups of protesters in Belarus on March 25 tried to breathe life into a movement against President Alexander Lukashenko that fizzled out in the face of a severe crackdown. March 25 has long been a traditional day of demonstration for the opposition, marking the anniversary of the 1918 declaration of the first short-lived independent Belarusian state. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

Lithuania’s president on Sunday condemned the arrest by Belarus of an exiled opposition activist as “abhorrent” after his Vilnius-bound flight made an emergency landing in Minsk. 

“Unprecedented event! A civilian passenger plane flying to Vilnius was forcibly landed in #Minsk,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Twitter.  

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“Belarusian political activist & founder of @NEXTA_EN was on the plane. He is arrested. regime is behind the abhorrent action. I demand to free Roman Protasevic urgently!”, Nauseda added.

He also urged NATO and the European Union to “immediately react to the threat posed by the Belarusian regime to international civil aviation,” in a separate statement issued by his office. 

“I will talk about it at the EU summit in Brussels tomorrow,” Nauseda added.

Baltic EU state Lithuania granted Protasevic refugee status in the wake of a bloody crackdown in Belarus after a disputed election last August. 

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Belarus saw unprecedented mass protests after strongman President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth term.

Following the vote that the opposition and Western diplomats said was rigged, Lukashenko’s challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya also fled to Lithuania and is still there.

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