MINSK – Belarus on Sunday sent a fighter to intercept an airliner aboard an opposition activist who, according to the latter, was arrested on his arrival in Minsk by the security services of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.
Opposition media Nexta claimed that its former editor-in-chief Roman Protassevich was arrested after the aircraft, a Ryanair Boeing 737, arriving from Belarus made an emergency landing at the airport in Belarus’ capital. Athens and with destination Vilnius in Lithuania.
” Bomb alert “
The Belarusian Interior Ministry initially confirmed this arrest on Telegram, before deleting this message, noted an AFP journalist.
According to the authorities, the plane deviated from its path because of a “bomb threat”. Nexta claimed that the emergency landing was sparked by a “fight” started by Belarusian security agents, who were on board and who claimed that an explosive device was in the aircraft.
France denounced this “hijacking” and demanded a “firm and united response” from the 27 EU member states. “The hijacking by the Belarusian authorities of a @Ryanair flight is unacceptable. A firm and united response from the Europeans is essential ”, declared the head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian on Twitter.
Germany demanded an “immediate explanation” from Belarus. EU leaders have jointly called on Belarus to let the baffled Ryanair plane depart.