Belarus Forces Ryanair Flight Carrying Opposition Figure Divert To Minsk

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On Sunday morning, Ryanair’s flight from Athens to Vilnius was forced by the government of Belarus to divert Minsk just before reaching the Lithuanian airspace.

The Ryanair flight FR4978 was forced to land to detain a journalist Mr. Roman Pratasevic who previously worked for an opposition TV channel and had left the country to live in exile.

Flightradar24 shows the part of the Ryanair flight FR4976:

Here’s an excerpt from Euronews:

Pratasevich, who had fled the country for Poland, faces charges that could carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called on the International Civil Aviation Organization to begin an investigation.

“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 in a statement. “Not a single person who flies over Belarus can be sure of his safety.”

The president of Belarus ordered the diversion according to Reuters:

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a Ryanair (RYA.I) flight from Greece to Lithuania to land on Sunday in Minsk, where a Belarusian opposition activist on board was detained, prompting international condemnation.

Lukashenko personally ordered a warplane to escort the Boeing to Minsk, BelTA reported. No explosives were found, it said.

Lithuania and traditional Russian ally Belarus are neighbours and former members of the Soviet Union. Lithuania is now a member of the European Union, Belarus is not.

European Leaders widely condemned the act:

Conclusion

The Belarus election in 2020 was set to reelect the president who has been in power ever since 1994. Everything didn’t go to the plan as a strong opposition candidate appeared who had to be suppressed and now lives in exile.

It is unprecedented that a country forces a flight to divert. There was the incident back in 2013 when the plane carrying the president of Bolivia had to land in Austria after several countries denied its airspace access due to the assumption that it was also carrying Edward Snowden.

Dissidents and opposition figures now need to carefully study flight routes to ensure that the aircraft doesn’t overfly a country or territory whose government may want to detain them?

This is not a show of strength but rather a weakness by President Lukashenko.

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