Belarus forces Ryanair plane to land; detains opposition activist

In a dramatic incident that send shockwaves across the world, a Ryanair flight FR4978 carrying passengers from Athens to Vilnius was diverted to the Belarusian capital Minsk under the escort of a Mig-29 fighter jet. Activist Roman Pratasevich, who is a critic of the Belarus government was detained by Belarusian authorities. 

The Belarusian presidential press service said that President Alexander Lukashenko personally ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to accompany the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport. It said a bomb threat was received while the plane was over Belarusian territory; officials later said no explosives were found on board. 

Lithuania, which called for the special meeting of the European Council to discuss the incident, said Belarus had effectively held EU citizens hostage by diverting the plane. “The entire EU has been brutally attacked and must respond in the strictest way,” its foreign ministry said. 

The EU has condemned the conduct of Belarus.  European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “the outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences.” “Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned,” she added.  

US Secretary of State Antony Blnken wrote on twitter:  “We strongly condemn the Lukashenka regime’s brazen and shocking act to divert a commercial flight and arrest a journalist. We demand an international investigation and are coordinating with our partners on next steps. The United States stands with the people of Belarus”. 

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