The Kremlin said on Tuesday it regrets Europe’s plans to cut air links with former Soviet Belarus and avoid its airspace after a Ryanair flight carrying an opposition activist was hijacked .

The plane traveling from Athens to Vilnius landed in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, after an alleged bomb threat.

The incident sparked a global uproar, with EU-based carriers cutting air links to Belarus and EU leaders warning of further sanctions.

“We can only express regret. It is very expensive for any business to fly into the territory of a large enough country in the center of Europe,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri told reporters. Peskov.

“Ultimately, these recommendations will cost passengers on planes, which will be in the air for half an hour or an additional hour,” he said.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his allies are already subject to European and US sanctions for handling the protests that have gripped the country after a disputed presidential vote in August 2020.

Opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, who was on board the hijacked Ryanair flight, was arrested at Minsk airport and authorities say he is being held in a pre-trial detention center.

His girlfriend Sofiya Sapega, a Russian national who was with him on the flight, was also arrested.

Peskov said he “hopes that in the near future” she will be released.

“Unfortunately, our citizens are detained in different parts of the world. We are still providing legal assistance,” he said.

Protasevich, 26, fled to Europe in 2019, where he co-ran Nexta Telegram, a key Belarusian opposition media outlet that helped mobilize protesters.

In Belarus, he is accused of organizing mass unrest, an offense punishable by 15 years in prison.

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