Leading Belarusian opposition activist, Raman Pratasevich, has been arrested in Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a fighter jet to escort the Ryanair plane Pratasevich was in, to Belarusian capital, Minsk.
Acccording to Pull Pervogo, Belarusian state broadcaster, Raman Pratasevich, a vocal critic of President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, was detained at Minsk airport following orders by Lukashenko (pictured below), a dictator supported and armed by the Russian government.
In a major breach of international law, the commercial plane was intercepted by a Belarusian fighter jet and escorted from international space till it landed in Minsk.
The Belarusian government claimed a bomb threat was detected in the plane and then forced to plane to go to Belarus instead of Lithuania where the flight was already close to.
Immediately the plane landed, Pratasevich was arrested. No bomb was found in the plane.
The original flight route was from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.
The Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs has confirmed the incident.
Reacting, NATO said it was “closely monitoring” the situation. “This is a serious and dangerous incident, which requires international investigation,” a NATO spokesperson said.
A senior official at the German Foreign Ministry, Miguel Berger, also responded to Pratasevich’s arrest on Twitter, demanding an “immediate explanation by the Government of #Belarus on the diversion of a Ryan Air flight within the EU to Minsk and the alleged detention of a journalist.”
European Council President Charles Michel expressed concern and called on Belarus authorities to release the flight and all its passengers, adding that an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) “will be essential.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the incident requires a “strong and united” response from the European Union.
The US is yet to react to the development.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has demanded Belarus release Protasevich.
Nauseda called the incident “abhorrent” and an “unprecedented event” in a tweet.
He said a “civilian passenger plane flying to Vilnius was forcibly landed in Minsk.”
The Belarusian “regime is behind the abhorrent action,” he tweeted and demanded Protasevic is freed “urgently.”