Belarusian leader defends his action to divert flight

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Belarus’ authoritarian president is defending his action to divert a European flight that triggered bruising European Union sanctions and accused the West of waging a “hybrid war” to “strangle” the ex-Soviet nation. On Sunday, Belarusian flight controllers ordered a Ryanair jetliner flying from Greece to Vilnius to land in the country’s capital, Minsk because of a bomb threat and a Belarusian fighter jet was scrambled to escort the plane. Once the plane landed, Belarusian security agents arrested Raman Pratasevich, a 26-year-old journalist and activist, and his Russian girlfriend. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday denied that the fighter jet was forcing the Ryanair plane to land and defended his action as a necessary response to the bomb threat.

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