Belarus airline chief decries airspace restrictions by EU states

·1 min read
A Boeing 737-800 plane of Belarusian state carrier Belavia is seen at the Domodedovo Airport outside Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The head of Belarusian national airline Belavia on Saturday condemned as "despicable" the decision by numerous EU countries to impose airspace restrictions on the carrier following the forced landing of a passenger jet in Minsk.

Most of Belarus's neighbours and many other European nations have banned Belavia flights amid outrage over Sunday's forced landing of a Ryanair jet en route to Lithuania from Greece and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board.

The EU has proposed closing its airspace to state-owned Belavia and stopping it from landing at EU airports.

In a post on his Facebook page on Saturday, Belavia director Igor Tcherginets said such steps amounted to sanctions on the carrier, which he described as innocent.

"It is evident that these governments planned not only to close their countries for landing by our airplanes, but also, with an especially fascist perversity, they are closing air corridors one by one. They are mocking us," Tcherginets wrote.

He criticised European governments for imposing the restrictions before the International Civil Aviation Organization had investigated the incident.

"All this is happening before an investigation of the incident, for which there may be some guilty parties, but Belavia is definitely not among them," he added.

"They punish innocent Belavia, without even beginning an investigation. It's despicable."

Belarus has said it was responding to a bomb threat when it scrambled a MiG-29 fighter plane to escort the Ryanair jet down and authorities in Minsk then arrested Roman Protasevich - a blogger and critic of President Alexander Lukashenko - and his girlfriend. European leaders have accused Belarus of state-sponsored piracy.

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Helen Popper)