Air Malta will not be flying over Belarus as it joins the international aviation community in avoiding the airspace following the arrest of an opposition activist and journalist.
The decision comes after the European Union agreed to impose sanctions on the country shortly after the Ryanair flight was diverted from Lithuania to Belarus so that the journalist, Raman Pratasevich, could be arrested.
“Air Malta joins the aviation community, headed by the International Air Transport Association, that condemned any interference or requirement for the landing of civil aviation operations that are inconsistent with the rules of international law,” Air Malta said.
Belarus sent a fighter jet to intercept Ryanair flight FR4978, forcing the plane to land in Minsk where police arrested Pratasevich.
According to Belarusian authorities, the flight was diverted due to a potential bomb threat coming from the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.
EU leaders have since labelled the diversion as a “hijacking” of the Ryanair flight and have demanded the immediate release of the journalist.
“This is an attack on democracy,” said President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “This is an attack on freedom of expression. And this is an attack on European sovereignty. And this outrageous behavior needs a strong answer.”
Air Malta currently operates no direct flights to Belarus.
Other European airlines have already pledged not to fly over Belarus, including Lufthansa and Air France.
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