A Ryanair jet landed in Lithuania after the Belarusian military intercepted it earlier on Sunday, 23rd May to divert to Minsk, where authorities arrested a journalist who covered protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.
“The B737-800 carrying scores of passengers from Athens to Vilnius was diverted to the Belarusian capital under the escort of a Mig-29 fighter jet after its crew was notified by authorities in Minsk of a “potential security threat on board,” a Ryanair spokeswoman said.
Authorities boarded the plane and arrested Raman Pratasevich, the former editor-in-chief of one the most popular Telegram news channels in Belarus. Pratasevich wasn’t on the plane when it took off again, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said in a recorded statement.
An adviser to Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said. “Pratasevich, 26, had been taken off the flight in Minsk by police. At first he panicked, then calmed down a bit, but still was trembling. He said he’ll face the death penalty here. He was taken aside, his belongings dumped on the runway,”
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called the Ryanair forced landing an unprecedented “kidnapping of a person by use of military force” and urged NATO and the EU to react to the threat posed by the Belarusian leadership to civil aviation.
“This is a serious and dangerous incident, which requires international investigation,” NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter.
The airline said it has “notified the relevant national and European safety and security agencies,” and apologized to the passengers for the delay, which was “outside Ryanair’s control.”