Belarus forces Ryanair plane to land to capture opposition figure
The opposition have since claimed this was a ruse so that an activist could be arrested
A Ryanair flight has been forced to make an unscheduled stop in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, reportedly to allow authorities to arrest an opposition activist.
The plane, which had been travelling from Athens in Greece to Vilnius in Lithuania was ordered to land over claims there was a bomb on the aircraft. It was escorted into the airport by fighter planes.
As reported by the Irish Times, Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus' president, ordered the plane land as it flew through the country's airspace.
The country's opposition have since claimed the bomb scare was a ruse to facilitate the arrest of an activist who was travelling on the flight. Roman Protasevich, a journalist and blogger who ran an opposition social media Telegram channel called Nexta, was detained on arrival in Minsk.
Ryanair said that its crew on the flight from Athens were notified by Belarus air traffic control about a "potential security threat on board and were instructed to divert to the nearest airport, Minsk."
A statement released by the airline said that the aircraft landed safely and that passengers disembarked while security checks were completed. No bomb devices were found during the search.
"Nothing untoward was found and authorities cleared the aircraft to depart together with passengers and crew after approximately five hours on the ground in Minsk," the statement said.
The Irish Government are said to have contacted Ryanair and EU authorities after the incident, with the European Commission president describing it as “utterly unacceptable”.
It is utterly unacceptable to force @Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk.
ALL passengers must be able to continue their travel to Vilnius immediately and their safety ensured.
Any violation of international air transport rules must bear consequences.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 23, 2021
“ALL passengers must be able to continue their travel to Vilnius immediately and their safety ensured,” Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet.
“Any violation of international air transport rules must bear consequences,” she warned.