More than 34,000 people were arrested in Belarus, and thousands were brutally beaten
European Union member leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, greet each other during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Monday, May 24.
The meeting comes after Belarusian authorities on Sunday arrested an opposition journalist, Raman Pratasevich, whose Lithuania-bound plane was forcibly grounded in Minsk.
The United States and European governments accused Belarus of engaging in an act of state terrorism after it forced the plane make an emergency landing in Minsk and arrested Pratasevich, an opposition blogger critical of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.
The U.S. and the European Union called on Lukashenko’s government to immediately release the 26-year-old who has been living in exile in Poland.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the Belarus government’s role as “shocking” and said the United States is demanding an international probe of the incident. Belarus is a former Soviet republic with close ties to the Russian government.
Lukashenko won his sixth term in the August election, claiming 80% of the votes, although many in the country accused him of rigging the vote.
During the months of protests that followed, the U.S. and the EU imposed sanctions on top Belarusian officials. More than 34,000 people were arrested in Belarus, and thousands were brutally beaten,VOA.