UK Suspends All Flights To Belarus Following Hijacking Of Ryanair Flight

Henrietta Brewer
May 25, 2021

The frightened man was Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old Belarusian political opposition activist and journalist.

11 Greek citizens were on 171 passenger Ryanair flight.

Another exhausted passenger, speaking to reporters without giving her name, said Protasevich looked "super scared".

Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who is wanted in Belarus for his role in broadcasting huge opposition protests in Minsk a year ago, did not have much time.

However, some of the social media reaction has been a bit different. He was also the nemesis of the country's dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. In 2019 he left Belarus because of the threat to his freedom for cooperation with the independent Telegram channel Nexta. He also brought his parents to Poland.

He said the International Civil Aviation Organisation's council should hold an urgent meeting to consider the regime's flouting of the rules.

Authorities in Minsk arrested activist and blogger Roman Protasevich - co-founder of the Nexta TV channel which was declared extremist by the authorities past year.

It used the Telegram messenger app to broadcast at a time when it was hard for foreign media to report first-hand from the country.

Members of the democracy movement in Belarus have voiced their support for Protasevich and demand his immediate release. "There is little doubt that the Belarusian authorities used a false bomb threat and a MiG fighter jet to force an airplane flying from one country of the European Union to another to land with the apparent sole objective of detaining an exiled critical journalist whom they badly wanted silenced".

Officials later said that no explosives were found on board.

According to reports, Mr Protasevich had his head in his hands and was shaking when he realised the flight was heading for Minsk.

The flight path of the fated Athens to Vilnius flight which was forced to land in Belarus.

"The plane was checked, no bomb was found and all passengers were sent for another security search", said Nexta. After that, passenger Marius Lutokauskas said, "I sat for an hour after landing". Then they began to release the passengers and took them with them. To honor their work, we can act to advance the democratic cause that they represent. Belarus' opposition have said they fear he could now face the death penalty.

A man shows the injuries he has suffered during protests in Belarus.

What has he been arrested for?

In November, he published a copy of an official Belarusian list of terrorists on Twitter on which he was named.

His social media feed from exile has been one of the last remaining independent outlets for news about Belarus since a mass crackdown on dissent a year ago.

For R.Politik's Stanovaya, however, the events at Minsk National Airport on Sunday may yet deepen Russian skepticism for a leader who is now profoundly dependent on Moscow for his survival.

The UK on Monday suspended all flights to Belarus and ordered airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace after a Ryanair flight from Lithuania was forced to land in the capital Minsk.

Lithuania expects an worldwide response to Belarus' hijacking of a Vilnius-bound civilian aircraft, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said.

He said: "This outlandish action by Lukashenko will have serious implications".

The president of the European Union Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen called the move to divert the flight "utterly unacceptable" and warned it must bear consequences.

"The announcement follows the Belarusian authorities' diversion of a passenger flight from Greece to Lithuania yesterday. It is a reminder of the illegitimacy of the regime claiming authority in Minsk", read a joint statement signed by representatives from several European Union countries, the United Kingdom and the United States, who called for an inquiry by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Willie Walsh, the director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and former CEO of British Airways' parent company IAG, told CNN he couldn't recall an incident like this in his career.

Its air force chief said the plane's captain had chose to land in Belarus "without outside interference" and that the pilot could have chosen to go to Ukraine or Poland.

Other reports by iNewsToday