A Ryanair Boeing 737 has been intercepted by a MiG-29 fighter jet, being diverted to Minsk and an opposition activist has been detained upon arrival.
Flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius was “notified by Belarus ATC of a potential threat risk onboard” and changed course to “the nearest airport, Minsk” according to a Ryanair statement. Roman Protasevich, a well-known opposition activist and blogger, was arrested on arrival; allegedly under the instructions of the Belarusian government. Reuters reported that he is on a wanted list in the wake of large demonstrations following last year’s elections.
Belarus state media reported that the flight diverted because of a bomb scare; however, Ryanair has confirmed that “nothing untoward was found” by local authorities.
The ICAO said that it was concerned about an “apparent forced landing” which may be “in contravention of the Chicago Convention” which defines rules on airspace and aircraft safety.
The EU President, Ursula von der Leyen, said “any violation of international air transport rules must bear consequences” while UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the event as “outlandish action”.