VILNIUS – Lithuanian National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas has urged allies to remain vigilant as Belarus will continue acting aggressively, the National Defense Ministry said on Friday.
The minister said that during an informal meeting of EU defense ministers with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Lisbon.
"The situation around us is worsening. Lukashenko won't stop and his goal is clear as he wants to destroy democracy and undermine the values we are fighting for. Therefore, our response must be coordinated. NATO and the EU must find a way to swiftly respond to such attacks," Anusauskas was quoted as saying in the ministry's press release.
Belarus was the main focus of ministers' statements, the ministry noted. Anusauskas called the recent plane hijacking as an act of state terrorism, and his Latvian counterpart Artis Pabriks urged the EU "to act as a union with values is supposed to act".
Last Sunday, a Ryanair flight en route from Athens to Vilnius changed course just before crossing into Lithuanian airspace and was diverted to Minsk where it landed. Belarusian opposition activist, blogger and founder of the Nexta information channel Raman Pratasevich was detained after the plane landed in Minsk, alongside his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen and student of the Vilnius-based European Humanities University.
In response to this incident, EU leaders later banned Belarusian airlines from flying into the block and urged EU airlines to avoid the Belarusian airspace. The EU is also considering introducing sectoral sanctions to step up pressure on Belarus.