Protests call for release of Belarus journalist

Protesters took to the streets across Europe on Saturday, demanding the release of a journalist critical of the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

His administration is facing fierce criticism from the international community for forcing an airliner to land in Minsk and detaining Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, who was on board the plane.

Protesters held rallies in Lithuania, Norway, and other European countries on Saturday in response to an appeal from Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is staying outside her country.

In Poland, demonstrators gathered at a square in Warsaw, calling for more freedom in Belarus.

Meanwhile, Lukashenko held a second day of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the southern Russian city of Sochi on Saturday.

Belarus' state-run media reports that the leaders agreed on a loan to Belarus, and an increase in the number of flights between the two countries.

Belarus is a former Soviet republic. Analysts say that Lukashenko may be trying to demonstrate his alliance with Putin, who is also at odds with Western countries, in an attempt to counter growing international criticism.