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Latvia's AirBaltic Says Changes Routes To Avoid Belarus Airspace

Latvia's airBaltic says that it has changed its flight routes to avoid Belarusian airspace after the forced diversion and landing of a Ryanair plane to Minsk that was carrying a prominent opposition journalist on an internal EU flight.

The air carrier said on May 24 that it would avoid Belarus airspace until "the situation became clearer" or authorities issue a decision on how to proceed.

Talis Linkaits, Latvia's transport minister, added in an interview with Latvian state radio that the national airline "continuously keeps a close eye" on the security situation over the airspace of different countries.

"It has already decided not to use Belarusian airspace when operating its flights. The Latvian Civil Aviation Agency will also announce its recommendations," he added.

Belarusian authorities scrambled a military jet to escort the civilian plane, which was en route to Vilnius from Athens on May 23, over what turned out to be a false bomb report. Once the plane landed, police detained Raman Pratasevich, a 26-year-old opposition activist and journalist.

EU officials and several Western governments have condemned the incident as the state-sponsored hijacking of a commercial flight, with some calling for fresh sanctions against authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has led a crackdown on dissent in the country since a disputed presidential election last August.

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