President of the European Council Charles Michel says it will be essential that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) investigate a forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk, Belarus.
"Very concerned regarding reports of a forced landing of #Ryanair flight in Minsk," he tweeted on Sunday, May 23. "We call on Belarus authorities to immediately release the flight and all its passengers. An #ICAO investigation of the incident will be essential."
Forced landing of Ryanair plane and Roman Protasevich's arrest
- On May 23, 2021, a Ryanair plane flying en route from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, was diverted and forced to land at Minsk airport, Belarus. After landing, the country's authorities arrested co-founder of Telegram's opposition channel NEXTA, Roman Protasevich, who was on board the plane.
- Roman Protasevich is a former editor-in-chief of NEXTA, which covered recent mass protests against the regime of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.
- The Belarusian authorities put Protasevich on the international wanted list and designated him a "terrorist." He had to flee the country for fear of political persecution.
- Leader of the Belarusian opposition Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (Svetlana Tikhanovskaya) responded to the forced landing of the plane with co-founder of NEXTA Roman Protasevich and his arrest at Minsk airport. "The regime forced the landing Ryanair plane in Minsk to arrest journalist and activist Raman Pratasevich. He faces the death penalty in Belarus. We demand immediate release of Raman, ICAO investigation, and sanctions against Belarus," she said on Twitter on May 23.
- There were immediate reports that Lukashenko had sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to intercept the Ryanair plane with the ex-chief editor of NEXTA on board.
- On the same day, the Defense Ministry of Belarus confirmed a MiG-29 fighter jet had been sent to escort a Ryanair plane, which reportedly requested a landing at Minsk National Airport over a possible bomb threat.