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Belarus Scrambles MiG-29 to Divert Ryanair Flight to Arrest Opposition Leader

A Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to Belarus, with the country's opposition figures saying it was done so dissident journalist Roman Protasevich could be arrested. Flight FR4978 was en route from Athens to Vilnius on Sunday when it turned east to Belarus's capital Minsk shortly before it reached the Lithuania border. In a statement, Ryanair said the crew were "notified by Belarus Air Traffic Control of a potential security threat on board and were… ( More...

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Geoff Rowe 35
I heard comment that the aircraft was actually closer to Vilnius when intercepted and so if this was in the name of “safety” then the aircraft should have continued to its destination. Therefore what happened was clearly an act of state sponsored (and organized) terrorism and harsh sanctions definitely need to be applied to Belarus.
The UN, US, EU, UK, ICAO, and NATO need to extract this political prisoner before they are executed, and swiftly enact strict sanctions on Belarus. This is an act of air piracy and terrorism, and cannot be tolerated.
What is UN going to do? NOthing the 5 biggest offenders have all a VETO right. My bet is that Russia will interfere.
Mark Henley 3
Right on -- agree 100%

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matt jensen 17
Once the plane landed, Belarusian security agents arrested Raman Pratasevich, who ran a popular messaging app that helped organize mass demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’ authoritarian leader. They also removed from the plane Pratasevich's Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who studies at a Vilnius university.
Franky16 10
Along with another 4 Russian 'passengers', who did not continue on the flight when it resumed.
Mark Henley 7
And I'll bet those 4 passengers had their KGB tattoos well covered...
ADXbear 16
Gee makes me feel comfortable Flying anywhere over there if they can't prevent this kind of terror.
John D 11
I was a surprised that Ryan Air is still flying over Belarus airspace today
Bob Smith 4
James Driskell 14
Because it might cost O'Leary 10 cents more to alter the flight path.
Nigel Rigg -9
ADXbear "can't prevent this kind of terror"? The airline were informed there was a bomb on board and that they would be escorted to the nearest airport. Who wouldn't follow those instructions? It wasn't a case of a Mig intercepting and forcing them down.
The aircraft was 2 minutes from the Lithuanian border and 7 minutes fom Vilnius airport when it was forced to do a 180 and then fly more than 20 minutes to Minsk. The MiG was there to make sure that the bombthreath that was posted AFTER the diversion) would have become a reality if they wouldn't have turned. I don't see how the pilots could have made any other decision facing those threaths. The reaction form the EASA and EU along with the G7 countries has been unonimous, and it will sting far worse for Lukaschenka than if this guy and his gilrfriend would have been able to continue to Vilnius. Belarus opened Pandoras box and now they are crying and sobbing to Putin. Putins on his side have a hard time finding some ways to help his guard dog, refusing some Air France to overfly Russia is what they have come up with, but then in a slow permission system way as they cannot see any other way to "retaliate"
erisajd 6
But it was actually - you don't actually believe there was a bomb threat, do you?
The "bomthreath" was a clever way to in any case make sure they would get him no matter what, if that meant others would become "collateral damage" they would just blame in on HAMAS as the letter is texted. But it came out too late and the transcript from the radio contact between the Belaus ATC and the pilot showed how he questioned WHERE the threath ended up? He asked if it was sent to Vilnius or Athens or to the airline, the vague answer from the Belarus ATC was that it was sent to many places. Then why hasn't that mail showed up in all those places? Because it was a late contruction to be able to blow them out of the sky had they not turned! Now, if the Belarus MiG pilot would have followed order is another question, but fortunatly he didn't have to make that decision, at least fortunat for the passengers and crew, minus the poor guy they where out to get and his girlfriend!
Nigel Rigg 4
That's a bold decision to make if you're the captain and then the plane blows up! In the cold light of day it might seem obvious but the crew were dealing with what they were faced with in real time.
Mark Henley 8
But the flight info suggests that Vilnius was the "nearest" airport.... so the ATC person must have meant the nearest Belarus airport (so the guy standing behind him wouldn't shoot him in the head...)
Tom Bruce 14
air piracy
John D 27
Pretty bad to force a commercial jet down under false pretenses. I hope the European community responds in kind by isolating Belarus.
At least they did not shoot it down with a (Russian) Rocket like MH17
this was a political move that should not have been allowed..i heard last night belarus air space is now restricted because of this incident...
Ah if a supersonic suppository could spit between the two eyes of President Alexander Lukashenko, I think there would be more happy people on earth.

Ah si un suppositoire supersonique pouvait se cracher entre les deux yeux du président Alexandre Loukachenko, je pense qu'il y aurait plus d'heureux sur terre.
Terry LeGrand 5
This is out and out air piracy. They will get away with it because nobody around will stop them. I remember back at a time when the U.S. would have stood up to BULLIES but alas that time is over. If erisajd is right the UN has gotten to soft also the world is changing.
hwh888 6
I’m dismayed at the reaction of the PIC over this. A quick look at distances should have sent a flag up. Vilnius was closer to Minsk. That was a easy check & verification.
Reading all the “up roar” over this makes me think nothing will come of it. All the talking heads will/have been heard then all will quietly go about the day as if nothing has happened. I my opinion all commercial flight in, out, over this rogue country, just as N.Korea, should be stopped.
Bill Butler 1
See Jan Stromback: "The MiG was there to make sure that the bombthreath that was posted AFTER the diversion) would have become a reality if they wouldn't have turned." Most insightful comment. Spot on, Jan.
That's one way to clear up your airspace.
truquete 2
Could someone please explain to me how this case is different from the incident in with Evo Morales'plane in the hunt for Snowden.

Are the cases really different, or is Europe and USA just being full with hypocrisy? No one sanctioned any country back in the day.
The Dude 2

The outrage by the E.U. is all well and good, but where was that outrage when the plane diverted was carrying Edward Snowden and the request came from the U.S.?

And no European country would offer asylum to Snowden.

Please don't tell me it's different only because one was a private plane and the other a commercial flight. Irrelevant.

It's one thing to put threaten sanctions against Belarus, another against the U.S. There's a huge amount of hypocrisy from the E.U. and the U.S.
Bob Smith 2
According to the article the flight was diverted so that “a dissident journalist on board could be arrested” not an “opposition leader” as the title of this squawk says.
The wording of the headline is not relevant. This was a clear act of state sponsored international terrorism, an act of war against the nations where the flight originated, its planned destination, the nation where the airliner is a flagged carrier, and the nations where the passengers are citizens. A bomb threat was made by the Belarus government, and then fighter aircraft threatened to shoot down, a commercial airliner in order to hijack the fight to an unscheduled destination against the will of the flight crew.

The purpose for these acts of state sponsored terrorism was to remove a single passenger the government wished to arrest and execute because he said and wrote things the government did not like.

Because I, as a US Citizen, wrote that, any flight I board that may cross into Belarus airspace is a potential target of this state sponsored terrorism, because someone in the Belarus government is likely to be offended by it.

While it is unlikely Belarus will allow the journalist to live very long, it is important that the FAA and ICAO take immediate action to limit exposure to this state sponsored terrorism by declaring the airspace over Belarus unsafe for air travel, and to restrict all flights through, into, and out of Belarus. Belarus flagged airlines and private aircraft should also be prohibited outside Belarus airspace. State sponsored terrorism and aircraft hijacking are acts of war by the sponsor nation, and must be treated as such.

And, though not really relevant, being a dissident journalist is considered in Belarus to be an opposition leader and, as such, a terrorist subject to summary execution. They consider cameras, microphones, public speech, and the written word as acts of terrorism when Belarus leaders are offended by what is said or written.
Jim Mitchell 7
Concur, no Belarus aircraft out side Belarus.
Alan Dahl 2
Needs to go one step further and prohibit all airlines that serve destinations in Belerus or transit their airspace from entering EU territory.
FAA? Is Belarus a state within the US? ICAO makes more sense even more than the UN as explained above.
Bob Smith -7
“And, though not really relevant, being a dissident journalist is considered in Belarus to be an opposition leader” really because a “opposition leader” is implying that the are leading the opposition and as far a I am aware this journalist was not the leader of the opposition. I was just trying to make things clear, I don’t know why your so worked up about it. While I do agree that what Belarus did was not okay, much of what you said was very overly dramatic, “ then fighter aircraft threatened to shoot down, a commercial airliner in order to hijack the fight to an unscheduled destination against the will of the flight crew.” I have not read anywhere about threat to shoot down the aircraft. Have a good day.
John D 17
While I do not have firsthand knowledge of the MiG-29's orders, one does not send a MiG to chase a passenger jet to say hello.
Mark Henley 6
Or as an escort for just a bomb threat.
Bob Smith -4
While I fully respect your views and opinions, from what I understand it was a fighter escort, from “Belarus media said a MiG-29 escorted the jet to Minsk because of a bomb scare but no explosives were found.” In emergency situations fighter escorts are not uncommon
John D 15
I do not disagree with your escort statement, the bomb-threat was a made-up threat to force the plane down from what I understand, at least that is what I picked up from the Wall Street Journal.
Bob Smith 4
I agree that the bomb statement was false
btweston 2
Oh sure. Honest mistake...

chugheset 0
"No explosives were found, however we did find this dissident on board and he writes explosive articles so that's close enough!"
erisajd -7
Have you read the UN treaty? You might not like it - and might not believe the reason [a bomb?] and might not agree with the politics of it - but - under the treaty it was perfectly permissible - not either air piracy or terrorism. . . .
The bombtreath was posted AFTER the diversion was initiated, the aircraft was 7 minutes from Vilnius and 2 minutes from the border, the flight to Minsk took from turning at 09:46 UTC to landing at Minsk at 10:16 UTC. HOW in your right mind can you claim that to be the ^^safest way^^ to handle the situation. the bombtreath mail was and afterwards construction to try and legitimate a highjacking of a commercial aircraft and the MiG29 was only there to deliver a bomb if they would not have turned! The Belarus goverment planned this a long time and it almost slipped them out of hands and got so obvious the whole world reacts. If they would have timed it when they entered Belarus airspace it might have been more doubtful, but this is so blatant what the goal was. The only good thing is that Lukaschenka seems so afraid he had to do this at all. To stay on the top your whole life as a dictator is harder and harder, and he is loosing it in so many ways.
John Turcotte 1
This action cannot be tolerated. International air travel must be kept out of politics. This was an act of terrorism out and out. The west needs to levy heavy sanctions on Belarus and the Russians. You can be assured that if they got away with it once they will do it again and again until severe action is taken. This is all they understand.

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Dan Sherrerd 1
Recall the 2013 Forced Landing of Bolivia's Plane to Find Snowden. The US-backed coup plot involving the assassination of Belarusian president, and other officials was foiled by Minsk & Moscow. Call him a journalist if you think he is.
eyeguy2020 2
That was not a commercial aircraft.
truquete 2
Does it make a difference whether it is a commercial aircraft or not? Why would it?
Intelligence on display!
But is he wrong?
btweston 6
Yes. You would have to be insane to believe that it was a reasonable thing to say with regard to this situation.

“I don’t like Joe Biden because my teevee set told me not to, so he must like Belarus!”

Big brain stuff there.
chugheset 4
What kind of TV do you have? Mine says to like him but hate Trump.

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Yes, because to hell with Constitutional Rights and civil liberties....
erisajd 2
do the media in Australia have 'first amendment' rights? I don't see it in their constitution.
Jim Mitchell 2
How did this story become a political one.
Bill Butler 0
Our Constitution was written for US! Not for every foreigner who sucks 02.
The MinskATC - Ryanair comms transcript can be found here:
Dave Nosek 0
Curious as to how the Ukrainian government knew he was even on this aircraft, the airlines are not in the habit of publishing there passenger list Whole thing sounds a bit premeditated to me.


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