File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )
Dublin-headquartered Ryanair is renowned for ultra-low-cost, short-haul flights across the continental bloc
The airline group Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary has said that Belarus’ forced landing of a Ryanair passenger jet in Minsk was “a state-sponsored hijacking” apparently directed by KGB agents.
"It appears the authorities intended to remove a journalist and his travelling companion," Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary told Ireland's Newstalk radio.
"We believe there were some (Belarusian security agency) KGB agents offloaded at the airport as well."
Dublin-headquartered Ryanair is renowned for ultra-low-cost, short-haul flights across the continental bloc.
Favoured by budget holidaymakers, the carrier is an unlikely participant in a high-stakes diplomatic crisis.
"I think it's the first time it's happened to a European airline," O'Leary said.
"It was a state-sponsored hijacking, it was state-sponsored piracy."
The Irish government also blamed Belarus for the diversion and called for a tough response from Brussels.
"We cannot allow this incident to pass based on warnings or strong press releases," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE.
"I think there has to be a real edge to the sanctions that are applied on the back of this."
Belarus on Sunday ordered its military to scramble a fighter jet to force the Ryanair plane to change course and land in its capital city, citing a potential security threat on board. State media in Belarus said President Alexander Lukashenko had personally given the order.
(With inputs from agencies)