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Email provider says bomb threat came after flight diverted to Belarus

Swiss email provider ProtonMail said Thursday that an email containing a bomb threat, which Belarusian authorities said contained a bomb threat arrived after the flight containing Roman Protasevich was diverted. Photo by EPA-EFE
Swiss email provider ProtonMail said Thursday that an email containing a bomb threat, which Belarusian authorities said contained a bomb threat arrived after the flight containing Roman Protasevich was diverted. Photo by EPA-EFE

May 27 (UPI) -- A Swiss email provider on Thursday said that an email Belarusian authorities said contained an in-flight bomb threat arrived after a plane carrying opposition journalist Roman Protasevich was diverted to Minsk.

ProtonMail issued a statement contradicting claims from Belarusian officials that they alerted cockpit crew after receiving a bomb threat against the plain carrying Protasevich -- a vocal opponent of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko who had been in self-exile -- by the militant group Hamas, The Washington Post reported.

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"We haven't seen credible evidence that the Belarusian claims are true," ProtonMail said. "We will support European authorities in their investigations upon receiving a legal request."

Swiss authorities also said they had no knowledge of a bomb threat on the Ryanair flight traveling from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, and did not alert Belarusian authorities of one.

RELATED U.N.: Belarus' 'abduction' of journalist escalates crackdown on civil society

Lukashenko, however, told the Belarusian Parliament that the diversion of the flight was legal while denouncing critics.

"The West has moved from revolts to strangling the country," he said.

The European Union on Monday banned flights from its 27 member states from flying over Belarus and blocked Belarusian national airline, Belavia, from flying over or landing in European territory.

RELATED Singapore Airlines to stop flying over Belarus after reporter's arrest

On Thursday, in an apparent show of support for Lukashenko's government, Russian authorities refused Austrian Airlines and Air France permission to fly to Moscow.

"A change in flight routes must be approved by the authorities. The Russian authorities did not give us this permit. As a result, Austrian Airlines had to cancel today's flight from Vienna to Moscow," Austrian Airlines said in a statement.

Air France canceled a flight between Paris and Moscow on Wednesday after it also failed to receive authorization to bypass Belarusian airspace.

RELATED EU, U.S. to punish Belarus over arrest of activist in forced landing

Belavia also canceled flights to Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and the Russian city of Kaliningrad through Oct. 30.

Also Thursday, Protasevich's parents called on the United States to take more definitive measures against the Belarusian regime, stating they believe he had been tortured before making a video stating he organized mass riots.

"Please understand that every single day of waiting counts and more innocent lives are being taken. Please save my son and all the other people that are being tortured," his mother said.

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