Plane landed in Belarus: Ryanair boss suspects agents on board

Plane landed in Belarus
Ryanair boss suspects agents on board

The forced landing of a plane in Belarus and the arrest of a journalist are causing outrage, especially in Europe. The head of the airline concerned, Ryanair, suspects that Belarusian agents were also on board. This coincides with other reports.

According to company boss Michael O’Leary, agents of the Belarusian secret service KGB were on board the Ryanair plane, which was forced to land by the Belarusian authorities. “It seems that it was the authorities’ intention to remove a journalist and his travel companion (from the plane),” the head of the Irish low-cost airline told Irish radio station Newstalk.

“We suspect that some KGB agents were also dumped at the airport (in Minsk),” said O’Leary. He said it was a “case of state-sponsored kidnapping, (…) state-sponsored piracy”.

Tadeusz Giczan, the editor-in-chief of the Belarusian opposition platform Nexta, for which the journalist Roman Protassewitsch arrested in Minsk also works, had previously made a similar statement. According to Giczan’s information, Belarusian KGB agents have been on board the Ryanair plane since it took off from Athens. Even before boarding, Protassevich noticed that he had been observed and photographed.

Praise to the crew

The agents had started a dispute with the crew in the airspace over Belarus because of an alleged bomb alarm and got them to radio SOS, Giczan said. According to other reports, the Belarusian air traffic control had alerted the crew. A Belarusian military fighter plane climbed up and intercepted the plane and escorted it to the landing in Minsk.

Ryanair boss O’Leary praised the crew for their “phenomenal job”. The incident was “very frightening” for staff and passengers who were held by gunmen for hours. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney called on the EU to give a “very clear answer”. The leadership of Belarus has no democratic legitimacy and behaves like a dictatorship, Coveney told RTÉ.