Paul Ronzheimer: Now let’s turn to the Protasevich case. There has been a lot of talk in recent days. As you know, he used to be in Greece. What does your government say, what does the Intelligence Service (EYP) know? Do they know about the agents who pursued him while he was in Greece?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I’ve read a lot of interesting spy theories. None of these have been confirmed. We know that Protasevich and his girlfriend were here on vacation. We know that they accompanied the leader of the opposition who was here at the Delphic Economic Forum, and we have absolutely no evidence that any agent boarded the plane, or that they followed him, or that he was harassed. I have read many of these theories. What happened is very clear. It was an act of government piracy. The government of Belarus announced that there was a bomb on the plane in the airspace of Belarus and ordered to land in Minsk with the sole purpose of detaining Protasevich. So we know exactly what happened, and we also know what didn’t.
Liana Spiropoulou: Are you satisfied with the sanctions against Belarus?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: What I can tell you is that I put a lot of pressure on the Council to tighten sanctions. One of the reasons, apparently, was that the plane took off from Athens. It had Greek passengers on it. Human lives were in danger. Flight safety is vital. We cannot tolerate this behavior in Europe. Therefore, I believe that the sanctions are strong. They apply not only to individuals, but also to businesses and possibly sectors. And of course, the decision to ban flights from Minsk and Belarus to European airports was correct.
Paul Ronzheimer: But they still happen. If you are looking at a map of airspace in some countries, there is a landing [белорусских самолетов] is still allowed.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I don’t know about that. I am not saying that this is not happening, but I am saying that I do not know what is happening. But I think we sent a clear message and did it quickly. Because, as you know, Europe does not always make foreign policy decisions very quickly. I think we did give an important signal that this behavior is unacceptable and that the regime will suffer significant financial consequences for what it has done.
Liana Spiropoulou: Were there any countries in the Council that did not agree with the imposition of sanctions?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: No. I think it was relatively easy to get unanimous approval compared to other discussions we had.
Liana Spyropoulou: How was it?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: You know that what happens on the Council remains on the Council.
Paul Ronzheimer: There was talk that KGB agents in Athens were watching Roman (Protasevich) on the plane.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I repeat once again – we have absolutely no information that there was any KGB agent or other agents on the flight. Absolutely none. Zero indication. And we investigated this in great detail.
Paul Ronzheimer: So who threatened to land the plane?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: As far as I know, dispatchers ordered the plane. No one in flight did any [опасной] activities …
Paul Ronzheimer: But what we learned from Roman (Protasevich) is that some people took pictures of him when he was in Athens, and they took strange photos of his passport …
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I certainly cannot go into details, but I cannot confirm that it happened at the airport.
Paul Ronzheimer: So there were no agents on the flight.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: As far as we know from our own work and of course we cooperate with the intelligence services, we have no indication that there were any agents on the flight.
Paul Ronzheimer: What will happen with this case? How can Roman be released? How much pressure should you apply?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: First, we must continue to discuss this issue. We must not forget Roman and Sophia either in a week or in a month. We need to find out exactly what happened, and we need to continue to put pressure and make it clear that this decision was not the one we once made, and the issue is considered resolved, and now we move on to the next one. So we are interested in keeping up the pressure [на Беларусь]… I think we all, as European citizens and leaders, have an obligation to try to free Roman and his girlfriend. But we still have to make sure that other political prisoners in Belarus are also released. Because Roman is not alone. There are others.
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