Ryanair top man Michael OLeary said that there were some Russian secret service personnel on board the flight that had to make a forced stopover in Belarus on Sunday. “It seems that the intention of the authorities was to remove a journalist and his travel companion. We believe that some Russian secret agents have also got off at the airport,” said OLeary on Irish radio. He further called the action a “state-backed hijacking.”
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney confirms the suspicion of the Ryanair top man. “We think five or six people have gotten off, but only one of them has been arrested, which would indicate that the others were secret agents.”
On Sunday, a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was intercepted in the airspace of Belarus and forced to land in the capital Minsk. On board was Belarusian opposition member Roman Protasevich, a journalist living in exile. He was arrested.
Great Britain has demanded the immediate release of Protasevich. He was arrested on Sunday on “basis of a ruse”, says British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.
“ The United Kingdom condemns the actions of the Belarusian authorities on Sunday, which arrested journalist Roman Protasevich on the basis of a ruse, after forcing his Ryanair flight to land in Minsk. President Aleksandr Lukashenko must be held accountable for his excessive actions,” says Raab.
He added that London is working with allies to increase sanctions against Belarus and President Lukashenko. Ryanairs flight with Protasevich on board went from Greece to Lithuania.