Culture

Belarus forces Ryanair flight FR4978 to land in Minsk

Belarus forces Ryanair flight FR4978 to land in Minsk”

Foreign Affair Minister, Simon Coveney has described as "extremely worrying" the fact that a Ryanair flight was grounded in Belarus with an opposition blogger detained.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said "Such an act can not be left without definite consequences from the side of the European Union" and called for Pratasevich to be released.

The EU will discuss possible sanctions over the major diplomatic incident at a summit on Monday and Tuesday, a spokesman said. The Belarusian regime says it then sent a scrambled fighter jet to escort the flight to the Minsk airport.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda condemned Belarus's actions, demanding Protasevich be released and calling on for an global response.

Minsk's airport had released a statement earlier saying that the aircraft had to make an emergency landing there at 1215 GMT following a bomb scare.

Deputy air force commander Andrei Gurtsevich said the plane's crew made the decision to land in Minsk but Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said the plane was forced to land there.

The presidential press service said President Alexander Lukashenko personally ordered that a MiG-29 fighter jet accompany the Ryanair plane - carrying opposition figure Raman Pratasevich and travelling from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania - to the airport in the capital Minsk. We are in contact with the Airline and European Union colleagues.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry summoned Belarus's top representative in the country to demand the immediate release of all passengers and crew, it said in a statement.

"The regime forced the landing.to arrest (the) journalist and activist", she wrote on Twitter.

More news: Death toll climbs as Palestinians flee Israeli fire in Gaza

The plane had nearly left Belarus air space but was forced to land in Minsk.

According to PAP, Morawiecki will hold a conversation with Michel later tonight to discuss the details of the sanctions, specifically banning Belarusian carriers from the European Union airspace in response to the incident. "Among them was... Nexta journalist Roman Protasevich".

Belarus' authorities placed Protasevich on a terrorism watchlist last year and have opened criminal cases against him on charges of organizing mass riots and inciting hatred, offenses that carry sentences of up to 12 to 15 years in prison.

Last year, 26-year old Protasevich and Nexta founder Stepan Putilo, 22, were added to Belarus's list of "individuals involved in terrorist activity".

Nexta Live and its sister channel Nexta - with close to two million subscribers on Telegram - are prominent voices of the Belarus opposition and helped mobilise protesters.

"It is absolutely obvious that this is an operation by the special services to hijack an aircraft in order to detain activist and blogger Raman Pratasevich", she said.

The opposition believes that Tikhanovskaya, who fled to neighbouring Lithuania after the election, was the true victor of last year's presidential vote.

It added that Protasevich said he was followed before boarding the flight.

The official Minsk version said: 'Belarus defended Europe.



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