Belarus Hijacks Ryanair Plane to Arrest Roman Protasevich
Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested on his flight from Athens (Greece) to Vilnius (Lithuania), as Belarusian authorities intervened during the flight´s route above Belarusian airspace.
Roman Protasevich was wanted by the Belarusian regime for broadcasting protests in Minsk in 2020 to share what was really going on in Belarus in the heat of the protest wave, with the rest of the world. His flight to Lithuania was forced to divert from its course, when a Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet ordered the plane to land in Minsk claiming there was a bomb on board. The claims have proven to be false. The Ryanair Boeing 737 stood 7 hours in Minsk after being let go by the authorities. Unfortunately, the ongoing plane had to continue its journey without Protasevich and several others, including his girlfriend, according to reports.
Travelers of the flight saw Protasevich opening his luggage and trying to split his belongings to others when it was announced mid-air that the plane would take an emergency landing in Minsk, Belarus. Moreover, they described Protasevich being “very sad” and “super scared” before his arrest by the Belarusian police at the airport.
World leaders across Europe raised their voice in protest to the operation; Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Sunday evening at a press conference “Belarus must face consequences… I am attending the European Council tomorrow and we will no doubt raise this issue as well. It is time to stop communicating with the regime just by making declarations”. Lastly, Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, tweeted the following: “The outrageous and illegal behavior in Belarus will have consequences. Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned. Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately”.
In the aftermath of the situation, Belarus has expelled diplomats from Latvia and Lithuania, ordering them to leave within 24 hours, as the countries lodged protests against the actions of the Belarusian government. Furthermore, the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority has blocked flights operated by the Belarusian flag carrier Belavia from operating flights to the UK and many European airlines are changing planned routes over the nation, to divert away from Belarusian airspace in order to limit government interference on scheduled passenger flights.