Minsk continues to exacerbate conflict with the West by raiding TUT.BY and hijacking an airliner
Belarusian authorities blocking the TUT.BY Internet portal and initiating criminal proceedings against TUT.BY MEDIA LLC employees has caused further aggravation of already dire relations between Minsk and the West.
On May 19, Peter Stano, spokesman for the European External Action Service, stated that the Belarusian authorities' actions against TUT.BY, other independent media and journalists contravene Belarus’ international commitments to the UN and the OSCE. The persecution of journalists must cease, and all detainees and political prisoners must be released immediately. The EU also calls for an end to violence and repression against peaceful demonstrators and others, including human rights activists, members of minorities, and political opponents. Stano stressed that those responsible for human rights violations cannot go unpunished, and the EU is working with the international community to coordinate efforts to hold them accountable. Meanwhile, the EU will continue to support the Belarusian Civil Society and independent media.
On May 20, the head of the European Parliament delegation on relations with Belarus, Robert Biedron, and the Parliament’s special rapporteur on Belarus, Petras Auštrevičius, issued a joint statement in the wake of events regarding TUT.BY: "The regime must stop the shameful persecution of independent media and fulfil its international obligations to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the media and freedom of expression,– In addition, we urge the EU to immediately proceed with the fourth package of sanctions against officials who take part in or are complicit in election fraud and subsequent human rights violations in Belarus, as well as companies supporting Alexander Lukashenka and his regime."
The repression of TUT.BY was also condemned by the USA, OSCE, Council of Europe, and the Foreign Ministries of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
Demands for the release of all political prisoners were voiced by the United States and the EU following the death of Vitold Ashurk, the Hrodna regional coordinator of the "For Freedom" movement in the Shklov penal colony. US Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher said that "he died fighting for freedom and a bright future for Belarus."
On May 23, Belarusian authorities forced a scheduled Ryanair Athens-Vilnius flight to divert and land at Minsk airport to detain the editor of the NEXTA Telegram channel Raman Pratasievich.