Belarusians who fled crackdown fearful after diverted flight

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VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Thousands of Belarusians who have fled the former Soviet nation amid a brutal crackdown on dissent are shocked by the forced diversion of a passenger jet to arrest an opposition journalist. Until this week, opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko thought they were safe by moving to nearby European Union countries like Lithuania. But that has changed, with Sunday’s diversion of the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius and the arrest of Raman Pratasevich once the plane landed in Minsk. Lukashenko has vowed to hunt down his political opponents, even if they move abroad. Lithuania says more than 16,000 Belarusians received long-term visas in the past nine months, including nearly 3,500 on humanitarian grounds.

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