|Author (Person)||Rocha, Frederico|
|Author (Corporate)||Cardiff EDC|
|Content Type||Blog & Commentary, News, Overview|
Information Guide concerning the forced landing of a Ryanair aircraft crossing Belarusian airspace, followed by the detention by Belarus authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.
On 23 May 2021, authorities in Belarus forced Ryanair flight FR4978 to undertake an emergency landing in Minsk, citing a bomb threat. The aircraft was flying from Athens to Vilnius and carried 171 passengers, among them Belarusian journalist and political dissident Raman Pratasevich, together with his partner Sofia Sapega. A MiG-29 fighter jet was ordered to accompany the passenger plane as it diverted from its original route.
Once the plane landed at the airport, Mr Pratasevich was taken into custody by authorities, together with Ms Sapega. No explosives were found in the aircraft and some hours later the remaining passengers were allowed to conclude their journey.
Rama Pratasevich is a co-founder of Nexta channel on Telegram, which was an important tool in the protests against the Belarusian regime and its leader, Alexander Lukashenko in the aftermath of a presidential election in 2020. Media outlets reported that the journalist promptly realised the potential consequences for the flight diversion to Minsk - he is on a terrorist watch list drawn up by the country's State Security Committee (KGB).
The episode led to strong criticism from opposition figures and international condemnation from the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA). The European Council decided on 24 May on a number of measures to apply pressure on the regime for the release of the two individuals. These measures included further sanctions and a ban on Belarusian airlines using EU airspace and airports. A number of companies also decided to stop using the country's airspace for their flights.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Subject Tags||Air Transport, National Politics|
|Keywords||Freedom of Press
|Countries / Regions||Belarus|