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Thursday, 17 June 2021

Belarus seizes Ryanair jet, arrests journalist

Duration: 01:52s 0 shares 8 views
Belarus seizes Ryanair jet, arrests journalist
Belarus seizes Ryanair jet, arrests journalist

European leaders cried foul after Belarus sent a fighter jet to divert a passenger plane, forced it to land, and arrested a wanted journalist.

This report produced by Zachary Goelman.

A passenger plane operated by Ryanair flying from Athens to Lithuania on Sunday was abruptly diverted in Belarusian airspace after Minsk scrambled a MiG fighter jet and forced the airliner to land.

On the ground, authorities detained one of the passengers: Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich.

Seen here in a 2017 photo, 26-year-old Protasevich worked for an online news service called Nexta that broadcast images of mass protests against Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko.

Protasevich fled Belarus after he was accused of organizing mass riots and of inciting social hatred, allegations he denies.

Belarusian news agency BelTA reported that Lukashenko had personally ordered the warplane to escort the Ryanair plane to Minsk.

The commander of Belarus's air defenses said the flight was diverted because of a report of a bomb on board.

Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called on international aviation authorities to investigate what she described as a 'highjacking.'

"Today Lukashenko personally caused an international scandal, used military aircraft against civilians of Belarus and European countries - to reprise a single person.

No one else is safe.

Anyone can be in Roman Protasevich's place." Supporters of Protasevich descended on the Minsk airport.

A spokesperson for Ryanair said the flight was directed to land, passengers disembarked, and the plane checked.

It was later permitted to continue flying to Vilnius.

The incident immediately prompted outcry from across the European Union - including from the leaders of Lithuania, Greece, Poland, and others.

Western European allies have repeatedly admonished Lukashenko, who has clung to power in Belarus since the mid-1990s.

He was accused of rigging the last election, and cracking down violently on civilian protesters.

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