The incident will be considered at an upcoming European Council meeting / REUTERS

The European Union says the landing of a Ryanair plane flying en route from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, was forced by a Belarusian military aircraft.

That's according to a declaration by High Representative on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on behalf of the EU on the forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 to Minsk on May 23, 2021.

"The plane, owned by an EU company, flying between two EU capitals and carrying more than 100 passengers, was forced to land by a Belarusian military aircraft," the declaration said.

Read alsoNATO says forcible landing of passenger plane in Minsk requires international probeIt is noted in carrying out this coercive act, the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and the crew.

"An international investigation into this incident must be carried out to ascertain any breach of international aviation rules," it said.

It is stressed this situation will be raised at an upcoming European Council meeting.

"The EU will consider the consequences of this action, including taking measures against those responsible," the declaration says.

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.