Coveney said the incident yesterday was a "state-sponsored hijacking" / REUTERS

The Belarussian grounding of a Ryanair flight amounts to "aviation piracy."

This was announced by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, the Irish Examiner reported.

Coveney said the incident on May 23, which saw a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius grounded over a supposed security concern, was a "state-sponsored hijacking."

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Coveney said that the Belarussian regime "has no democratic legitimacy" and called on the EU to show a "clear and tough response."

Read alsoNATO says forcible landing of passenger plane in Minsk requires international probeHe told RTE radio he "would like to speak to" the Belarussian honorary consul in Dublin, but stopped short of advocating the banishment of all diplomats across the EU.

There has to be "a real edge" to any sanctions imposed and the EU must go beyond "strong press releases," he added.

Earlier, Coveney wrote on Twitter the EU should give a strong response to such actions.

"It is utterly unacceptable. This is an Irish Airline with EU citizens on board, forced to land in Minsk, while travelling between EU cities. A strong an[d] united response from EU needed. EU inaction or indecision will be taken as weakness by Belarus," he tweeted.

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 (Raman Pratasevich), who was on board the plane.
  • Leader of the Belarusian opposition Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (Svetlana Tikhanovskaya) responded to the incident. "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 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko had sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to intercept the Ryanair plane with the ex-chief editor of NEXTA on board.
  • That country's Defense Ministry confirmed the interception of the plane.
  • President of the European Council Charles Michel insists it will be essential that ICAO investigate the Minsk incident.
  • The European Union said the landing of a Ryanair plane flying en route from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, had been forced by a Belarusian military aircraft.