A Belarusian journalist, former editor of the main opposition Telegram channel NEXTA and today’s Telegram channel Belarus of the Brain, Roman Protasevich, was detained in Minsk. A Ryanair plane on which he flew from Athens to Vilnius was urgently landed.
The situation has already turned into an international scandal. For instance, the opposition of Belarus has already reacted to it, calling it an act of state terrorism. And the United States and European countries have called to suspend all air traffic over Belarus. tells the details.
Landing Ryanair in Minsk: details
Ryanair's plane, Protasevich was flying on, made an emergency landing at Minsk National Airport during a flight from Athens to Vilnius. NEXTA writes that a signal of mine-laying was the cause. The bomb was never found, but the passengers were sent for a second inspection, and during it Protasevich was detained. The Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus confirmed the arrest, BBC reports.
"Alexander Lukashenko [self-proclaimed president of Belarus.—Ed. ] and the Air Force of the Republic of Belarus forced the Ryanair plane to turn around and land in Minsk. This is a raider seizure of the plane," NEXTA stated, adding that in the country Protasevich, who is accused of organizing mass riots and inciting social hatred, faces the death penalty.
Later, the Telegram channel Pul Pervogo, controlled by Lukashenko, stated that the pilots appealed to Minsk so that Belarus would accept the plane and Lukashenko decided to agree. Also, on his behalf, a MiG-29 fighter rose into the air to escort the plane. That happened after the Ryanair pilot decided to land in Minsk.
Ryanair's reaction to the Protasevich scandal
Ryanair itself, a few hours after the emergency landing, said that the Belarusian authorities had informed the crew about the security threat on board and demanded to land at the nearest airport, namely in Minsk. However, as European Pravda writes, at the moment when the plane began to change course at the direction of the flight operations officers, the distance from it to Minsk was 2-3 times longer than to the destination airport—in the south of Vilnius. In addition, the statement does not mention the situation with Protasevich.
Detention of Protasevich in Minsk: the reaction of the world
The team of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has already appealed to the Ryanair office and to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with a demand to investigate Protasevich's arrest, stating that "it is quite obvious that this is an operation of the special services to seizure an aircraft in order to detain an activist and blogger Roman Protasevich."
At the same time, the EU countries unanimously declared that the seizure of a civilian plane is an act of state terrorism and all passengers, including Protasevich, should be able to freely leave Belarus and depart to their destination. In particular, the head of the European People's Party, Donald Tusk, wrote on his Twitter that "Lukashenko has become a threat not only to his citizens, but also to international security. His act of state terrorism requires an immediate and tough response from all European governments and institutions."
"Another attack on freedom of speech by the Belarusian authorities. We demand immediate release. During the period of detention, the rights of the detainee must be guaranteed unconditionally," Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, stated.
Canada, in turn, urges to release Protasevich and called the situation "a serious interference in the civil aviation activities and an encroachment on press freedom."
After this incident, the Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez, as well as representatives of the Czech Republic, Latvia, Germany, Lithuania, Ireland, Poland, and Great Britain spoke of condemning the Belarusian authorities and demanded ICAO to conduct an investigation. Until this happens, the international community demands to suspend the membership of Belarus in the organization and "suspend all air traffic over this country, including flights to and from Belarus."
The organization itself stated that it is concerned about the forced landing of the Ryanair flight and its passengers, and that may be contrary to the Chicago Convention.
Also in the morning it became known that at least two flights of AirBaltic have already moved bypassing the airspace of Belarus, Euroradio reports. In particular, the flight from Riga to Odesa bypassed the territory of Belarus over Lithuania and Poland, and the flight from Riga to Tbilisi moved through the airspace of Russia.
Let us also add that the European Council will consider this incident on May 24.