Ryanair plane 'forced to land' in Belarus with journalist onboard 'detained'

A Ryanair plane landed in Belarus in an emergency after a journalist on board was allegedly arrested.

A total of 170 people from 12 countries were on the plane when the drama took place in mid-flight.

The military fighter SU-29 and the MI-24 helicopter were mixed up to divert the plane from Vilnius to Minsk in Lithuanian.

Law enforcement agencies arrested 26-year-old activist Roman Protasevich, who was put on a wanted list following mass street protests last year following an election in which Lukashenko won a landslide victory.

The plane, which was flying from Athens to Vilnius, had almost reached Lithuania when it changed direction and was taken to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, after reports were made of explosives, according to an online flight tracker and BelTA.

Lukashenko personally ordered the fighter plane to escort the Boeing to Minsk, the state-run BelTA news agency reported.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda condemned the actions of Belarus, called for Protasevich’s release and called for an international response.

“I call on the allies of NATO and the EU to respond immediately to the threat posed by the Belarusian regime to international civil aviation.

“The international community must take immediate action that will not repeat itself,” said Nauseda.

Lithuanian presidential adviser Asta Skaisgiryte said the operation to land the plane was pre-planned.

She said the Belarusian intelligence services knew who was on board the plane that had to land with the help of the MIG-29 fighter jet.

The flight tracker shows the flight path of the aircraft

Ryanair plane 'forced to land' in Belarus with journalist onboard 'detained' 1

Protasevich has lived in Vilnius since November, she said.

Lithuania is now a member of the European Union, Belarus is not.

Belarusian opposition telegram channel Nexta confirmed that its former editor and exiled opposition activist Roman Protasevich had been arrested at Minsk airport after the forced landing.

“The plane was checked, no bombs were found and all passengers were sent on another security search,” said Nexta. “Among them was … Nexta journalist Roman Protasevich. He was arrested.”

A Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS lands at Minsk International Airport. '

It is believed that around 95 passengers on the flight were Lithuanians.

The Belarusian Organized Crime Control Department also reported that Protasevich had been arrested, but then deleted the statement from their telegram channel.

A spokeswoman for the Lithuanian airport authority told Reuters that the plane scheduled to land in Vilnius on Sunday is expected to land at 1500 GMT or later.

Ryanair had no immediate comment.

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