On Sunday 23rd May, a Buzz Boeing 737-800 (reg. SP-RSM) was forced to land in Minsk. The flight was operated by Ryanair and was originally from Athens to Vilnius. Onboard, was a Belarusian Opposition journalist, Roman Protasevich.
Mr. Protasevich is a journalist who was the former editor of Nexta (a media organisation who operates on Telegram). He was exiled to Lithuania in 2019. There, he covered the 2020 election of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
While on a Ryanair flight, from Athens to Vilnius, his plane was ordered to land immediately. Belarusian authorities believed that there were explosives on board – something which turned out to be blatantly false. The polish registered Boeing 737 was escorted to Minsk.
While on the ground, passengers were unloaded. The plane was checked – nothing out of the ordinary found. However, Roman Protasevich was arrested.
This incident raised serious concern right across the continent. Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin Tweeted “The forced landing of a passenger plane in Belarus today to detain a journalist is absolutely unacceptable”
These unprecedented actions have caused widespread concern across the EU – and they must be addressed at tomorrow’s #EUCO.
Ursula Von Der Leyen, president of the EU Commission tweeted: “The outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences.Those responsible for the #Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned.Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately.EUCO will discuss tomorrow action to take.”
Speaking on Irish radio station Newstalk, Ryanair Chief Executive Michael Ó Leary said “This was a case of state-sponsored hijacking… state-sponsored piracy”
Today, the EU Commission will meet – likely to discuss the situation in Belarus. Many EU leaders are looking at sanctions to be placed on the country. A document was signed by American Senator Bob Menendez, Charlie Flanagan TD and many others calling on ICAO to review the “clear violation of free transit between states and the threats to aircraft”