Ryanair flights lands in Vilnius after forced landing in Belarus
Ryanair Flight FR-4978 was en-route from Athens to Lithuanian capital, Vilnius when it was ordered to land in Minsk as it was notified of “a potential security threat onboard” by air traffic controllers in Belarus. The officer-in-charge instructed to divert to Minsk for an emergency landing. The airline said the plane landed safely in the Belarusian capital and nothing suspicious was found after passengers were offloaded and an inspection took place. But authorities at the airport used this opportunity to arrest Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian journalist and opposition activist, who was also a passenger in the flight. Being in the confused state or not willing to disclose the information, foreign ministries of Greece and Lithuania said there were 171 passengers from at least 18 countries. The Belarusian state news agency reported, however, that there were only 123 passengers.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda tweeted that Belarustw had committed an “abhorrent action” and demanded the release of Protasevich. The Greek Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns the state hijacking,” while the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Poland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands were among the chorus denouncing Minsk. Coming as no surprise, the opposition news outlet Nexta, confirmed the arrest of Protasevich, the organization’s co-founder and former editor has been all planned. It also said that Protasevich had been followed before he boarded the plane in Athens. Expressing outrage, Governments across said that the Belarus have used the pretext of a safety threat to conduct a “state hijacking” of a civilian airliner to go after a critic.
Belarus’s PM also ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet be scrambled to accompany the Ryanair plane. Mass protests against his rule erupted after a presidential election last year that was widely seen as unfair and rife with electoral fraud. The Irish low-cost airline said the plane spent seven hours on the ground in Minsk undergoing security checks before it was allowed to depart. People are critizing the airline and saying that from now on, no person from any country who flies over Belarus is guaranteed even basic safety.