NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

Brussels [Belgium]:

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed the belief that Russia was involved in the Ryanair plane diversion to Belarus, citing close relations between Moscow and Minsk as evidence.

Earlier in the week, the alliance condemned the allegedly forced diversion to Minsk of the Ryanair flight with Belarusian journalist and opposition activist Roman Protasevich, and the subsequent arrest of the latter.

"We know the very close relationship between Russia and Belarus and therefore it's hard to believe that the regime in Minsk could do something like this without any kind of coordination with Russia," Stoltenberg told Sky News.

On Sunday, a flight by the Irish airline Ryanair from Athens to Vilnius was grounded in Minsk over a bomb threat flagged by the Belarusian authorities, which turned out to be fake.

Among the passengers was Protasevich, whose Telegram channel Nexta is believed to have played an important role during last year's post-election protests and then designated as extremist.

The journalist was detained during the stopover, triggering a wave of consternation and outcry from Western politicians and officials.

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