Belarus sends fighter jet to divert passenger plane, detains opponent

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: May 23, 2021, 11:24 PM(IST)

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Roman Protasevich (26), the detained journalist worked for an online opposition news service NEXTA, a Telegram channel that broadcast footage of mass protests against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko last year at a time when it was hard for foreign media to do so

Belarus on Sunday sent a fighter jet to escort a passenger plane to land flagging bomb alert that turned out to be false. The plane headed from Athens to Lithuania was diverted to Belarus capital Minsk and an opposition-minded journalist was detained. 

The dramatic incident saw a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet escort a Ryanair-operated passenger plane flying from Athens to Lithuania. The plane was instead suddenly diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where authorities detained journalist Roman Protasevich who had been on board.

Roman Protasevich (26), the detained journalist worked for an online opposition news service NEXTA, a Telegram channel that broadcast footage of mass protests against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko last year at a time when it was hard for foreign media to do so.

Data from the flightradar24.com website showed the plane was diverted just two minutes before it was due to cross into Lithuanian airspace from Belarus.

Protasevich's detention has evoked strong reactions across the world.

Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, said Belarus's action was "utterly unacceptable", while British foreign minister Dominic Raab said there would be serious implications for what he called "outlandish action."

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who like Protasevich operates from Lithuania, called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to kick Belarus out of the organisation.

EU member state Lithuania, where Protasevich is based, urged the European Union and NATO to respond.

(With inputs from agencies)

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