Belarus opposition figure detained when flight diverted
May 24, 2021 - A Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania was forced by a fighter jet to land in Belarus in order to arrest an opposition activist onboard, Roman Protasevich, drawing outrage from U.S. and EU leaders.
Ryanair said Belarusian flight controllers told the crew there was a bomb threat against the plane as it was crossing through the country’s airspace and ordered it to land in the capital of Minsk. A Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to escort the plane – in a brazen show of force by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for over 25 years, AP said.
The goal was seemingly the arrest of Roman Protasevich, an activist and journalist who ran a popular messaging app that played a key role in helping organise massive protests against the authoritarian leader. He and his Russian girlfriend were led off the plane shortly after landing. The plane, which began its journey in Athens, Greece, was eventually allowed to continue on to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
- Belarus forces airliner to land and arrests opponent, sparking U.S. and European outrage (Reuters)
- Forced landing of Ryanair jet in Belarus triggers outrage (Bloomberg)
- Western powers voice outrage as Belarus accused of hijacking plane (BBC)
- West condemns plane’s diversion to arrest Belarus journalist (AP)