The restrictions come a day after Belarus forced a Vilnius-bound plane to land in Minsk and arrested a journalist on board, drawing strong international criticism.

The Ryanair plane with registration number SP-RSM, carrying opposition figure Raman Pratasevich, which was traveling from Athens to Vilnius and was diverted to Minsk after a bomb threat, lands at the International Airport outside Vilnius, Lithuania on May 23, 2021
The Ryanair plane with registration number SP-RSM, carrying opposition figure Raman Pratasevich, which was traveling from Athens to Vilnius and was diverted to Minsk after a bomb threat, lands at the International Airport outside Vilnius, Lithuania on May 23, 2021 (AP)

Lithuania, UK and Ukraine have restricted flights across Belarusian airspace, a day after Belarus forced a Vilnius-bound plane to land and arrested a journalist on board

"Any flights to or from Lithuanian airports via Belarusian airspace are prohibited" from Tuesday, Transport Minister Marius Skuodis told a government meeting in the capital Vilnius.

Lithuania's government said it was proposing to the EU that Belarusian airspace should be closed for all international flights by EU-based airlines.

READ MORE: Belarus opposition figure's arrest in diverted flight draws criticism

It also said it wanted a ban on Belarusian airlines flying to EU member states and sanctions against the national flag carrier Belavia, as well as "all people and organisations responsible" for Sunday's incident.

"Lithuania has the opportunity to take certain actions on its own, but the main response we hope for must be international," Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told a press conference after the meeting.

Regional carrier airBaltic, which is based in Latvia, earlier on Monday said it would avoid Belarusian airspace until further notice.

Lithuania and Latvia both share a border with Belarus.

READ MORE: EU weighs response to Belarus ‘hijacking’ plane to arrest journalist

'Independent investigation'

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres backed calls for an independent investigation of the incident.

"The secretary-general is deeply concerned over the apparent forced landing of a passenger aircraft over Belarus on 23 May and the subsequent detention of Mr. Roman Protasevich," said the UN chief's spokesman Stephane Dujarric in a statement.

"The secretary-general supports calls for a full, transparent and independent investigation into this disturbing incident and urges all relevant actors to cooperate with such an inquiry," he added.

UK and Ukraine bans

The British government on Monday issued instructions for UK aircraft to avoid Belarusian airspace and slapped a ban on the country's flag carrier Belavia.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had told the Civil Aviation Authority to issue instructions "in order to keep passengers safe."

He also suspended the operating permit of Belavia, which flies daily London Gatwick to Minsk flights via Paris in a code-share with Air France.

Soon after, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the government to stop direct flights with Belarus.

"The president instructed the government to work out a decision on the termination of direct flights between Ukraine and the Republic of Belarus," the presidency said in a statement, adding that Ukrainian planes would not fly through Belarus airspace.

READ MORE: Belarus opposition leader flees country amid crackdown on protests

More restrictions?

In Poland, which also borders Belarus, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he too would urge the EU to ban all flights to and from Belarus.

He termed Sunday's incident "unprecedented state terrorism on the part of the Republic of Belarus."

Similarly, Sweden's Transport Agency said on Monday that Swedish airlines should consider avoiding Belarus airspace.

"The Swedish Transport Agency encourages Swedish airlines to consider the uncertain situation and that they, therefore, should consider avoiding flying in Belarusian airspace," it said in a statement, adding that the decision was in line with a recommendation from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

European leaders have condemned the incident.

The Scandinavian airline SAS, which flies twice a week between Oslo and Kyiv, said it would follow the recommendations and avoid Belarusian airspace. 

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies