The Belarusian opposition has accused the Government of the country of “hijacking” a plane by forcing the plane to make an emergency landing to arrest journalist Román Protasevich, one of the founders of the Telegram channel Nexta, who played a key role in coordinating the protests that followed the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.
“Roman Protasevich has been arrested. I was on a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius. The plane made an emergency landing at the Minsk airport, “the human rights center Viasna published on the social network Telegram. For its part, the Nexta Live channel accused Lukashenko’s supporters of the” hijacking “of the plane, to arrest to Protasevich “The death penalty awaits him in Belarus,” according to Nexta Live.
Shortly before it was learned that a Ryanair plane interrupted its flight from Athens to Vilnius and made an emergency landing in Minsk due to a bomb warning, which was not confirmed, reports the official Russian news agency, RIA Novosti. As early as last November, the Belarusian Security Committee (KGB) included Protasevich and another Nexta founder, Stepan Putilo, on its list of people implicated in terrorist acts.
EU condemns Belarus
The High Representative for EU Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, has condemned the “inadmissible” decision of the Belarusian Government of forcing a flight between Athens and Vilnius to land in Minisk in order to arrest a Belarusian journalist. “We are closely following what has happened with the Ryanair flight between Athens and Vilnius, forced to land in Minsk due to an alleged security threat. It is absolutely inadmissible,” Borrell posted on Twitter.
Borrell has warned that they consider the Belarusian government “responsible for the safety of all passengers on the plane”. “All passengers must be able to continue their trip immediately,” he added. The office of the Belarusian opposition leader in exile, Svetlana Tijanovskaya, has claimed that a MiG-29 fighter jet escorted the plane to the Minsk airport. In addition, he assures that when he received the bomb warning he was very close to the border with Lithuania and that the Vilnius airport was closer than that of Minsk.
Tijanovskaya herself has denounced the landing in Minsk “forced” by the “regime” and has warned that Protasevich could be sentenced to death.. Therefore, it has called for an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and sanctions against Belarus.
The elections of August 9, 2020 in Belarus
The presidential elections on August 9, 2020 in Belarus, which gave Alexander Lukashenko a new term, sparked several months of protests. Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won 80.1 percent of the vote, compared to 10.1 percent for opposition candidate Svetlana Tijanovskaya, according to official vote count. The Belarusian opposition denounced massive fraud and demanded a repeat election, an option that Lukashenko ruled out completely.
Several countries, including the US, members of the European Union, the United Kingdom and Ukraine, did not recognize these elections. On the other hand, Russia, China, several nations of the post-Soviet space, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Turkey, among others, considered the results of the vote valid.