Sunday 23 May will go down in the history books of international civil aviation. Belarus forced a Ryanair flight to land against its will in Minsk. On the plane was the Belarusian journalist Roman Pratasevich, who is critical of President Alexander Lukashenko. Like most other central figures in Belarus, Roman Pratasevich is accused of terrorism. Roman Pratasevich was arrested shortly after the plane was forced to land. The flight was on its way from Athens in Greece to Vilnius in Lithuania.
Unique for international aviation
The event is completely unique. A clear violation of international law. The International Air Transport Organization, IATA, writes on Twitter that it strongly condemns any interference in civil aviation that does not comply with international law.
The incident creates international condemnation and almost shock waves through international civil aviation. World has hardly seen anything like it. Ryanair flight was stopped and forced to land in Minsk by fighter jets from Belarus. Lutauen’s president Gitanas Nauseda says that Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko is behind the act.
Who was Roman Pratasevich?
Roman Pratasevich is a journalist from Belarus who reports for the Telegram channel Nexta. This is a channel that has no formal status, but started writing independent reports from the Belarusian elections in the fall of 2020. Please see my review of the elections in Belarus. and my blog about the protests afterwards .
Among other things, Nexta made videos that they posted on their Telegram and YouTube. After the election, the channel documented the protests that followed and documented serious abuses committed by the police and security forces against the demonstrators. In order to get away from Belarusian censorship and imprisonment of the opposition, Roman Pratasevich and others in Nexta chose to stay abroad.
Threatened to shoot down the plane
According to Nexta, Belarus threatened to shoot down the plane if it did not make an “emergency landing” in Minsk. Belarusian fighters followed the Ryanair plane and forced it to make an emergency landing.
International aviation must now ask itself whether it is safe to fly through Belarusian airspace. Forcing a civilian airliner to make an emergency landing is not acceptable. If the information from Nexta is correct that they threatened to shoot down the plane, it is almost a declaration of war.
The incident tells of a dictator who is desperate in his actions. It also tells about a regime we cannot trust. Released Roman Pratasevich now.