Poland Summons Belarusian Ambassador Over Ryanair Plane Incident

Yolanda Curtis
May 25, 2021

Belarus forced the plane, which was heading to Vilnius from Athens, to land in Minsk in Belarus saying there might be a bomb on board.

Flight tracker sites indicated the plane was about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Lithuanian border when it was diverted.

The other passengers looked tired on arrival in Vilnius, with Mantas saying they had spent hours in queues for luggage and passport checks in Minsk before being allowed into a lounge to await takeoff. According to the statement, Lukashenko, an ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation, gave an "unequivocal order" to "make the plane do a U-turn and land".

Antony Blinken, the USA secretary of state, sharply criticized the government of Belarus on Twitter on Sunday for its detention of Protasevich.

"Belarusian airspace is completely unsafe for any commercial flight, and it should be deemed this not only by the European Union but by the worldwide community".

The presidential press service said President Alexander Lukashenko personally ordered that a MiG-29 fighter jet accompany the Ryanair plane - traveling from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania - to the Minsk airport. "Lithuania has launched an investigation to find out what really happened on that plane", he said on Facebook.

However, opposition groups have said it was an operation by Belarus special services to "hijack" the flight so they could arrest Mr Protasevich.

The International Civil Aviation Organization - the U.N.'s civil aviation agency - said the forced landing "could be in contravention of the Chicago Convention", which protects nations' airspace sovereignty.

"Not a single person who flies over Belarus can be sure of his safety".

European Union leaders will discuss "possible sanctions" on Belarus at their summit in Brussels on Monday, a spokesman for EU Council chairman Charles Michel said on Sunday.

Authorities in Belarus scrambled a fighter jet and flagged what turned out to be a false bomb alert to force a Ryanair plane to land, drawing global criticism. But Landsbergis, the Lithuanian foreign minister, said there were 171.

Belarus "showed again its contempt for worldwide community and its citizens", US Ambassador Julie Fisher said, calling the event "dangerous and abhorrent".

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: "It is utterly unacceptable to force @Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk".

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a tweet the incident was serious and unsafe, and required an global investigation.

US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said that US authorities are cooperating with Greece to fully investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, Poland's prime minister called the incident a "reprehensible act of state terrorism". "The United States once again condemns the Lukashenka regime's ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists", Blinken said.

Belarusians took to the streets demanding the resignation of Lukashenko, who has ruled with an iron fist for over two decades and in August secured a landslide victory in an election his opponents say was rigged.

Police cracked down hard, detaining around 30,000 people with many suffering beatings while they were in custody.

Opposition leaders have called the diversion of the plane that carried dissident journalist Roman Protasevich a "hijacking" by the Belarus authorities and European leaders have condemned the action. Last week, 11 staff members of the TUT.by news website were detained by police.

Other reports by iNewsToday