Belarus diverts Ryanair flight to arrest journalist, opposition reports

The Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, diverted to Minsk in Belarus. 

The aircraft, a Boeing 737 registered SP-RSM, was flying above Belarusian territory and nearing the Lithuanian border when it suddenly changed course east towards Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, where it landed.

Early information says a bomb alert was reported on the flight, and Belarusian authorities required for the flight to land in order for their military to deal with the threat. The flight was intercepted by a MiG -29 fighter jet from the Belarusian air force.

However, opponents to the regime of Alexander Lukashenko say the diversion was made to arrest one of the passengers, Roman Protasevich.

Protasevich is a Belarusian journalist, founder and former editor-in-chief of the Nexta information channel. Nexta was particularly active during the recent protests in Belarus which started in May 2020, following the sixth reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko. Protasevich may face death penalty in Belarus, according to the exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

The Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis, reported “working with international partners to secure safe passage back to Vilnius for all passengers.”

Update: The plane departed from Minsk and landed in Vilnius later in the evening of May 23, 2021. Roman Protasevich was not on board.

Two Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jets

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