- Belarus shared video of a journalist detained after the government diverted a passenger flight.
- KGB agents arrested Roman Protasevich, a critic of President Alexander Lukashenko, Monday.
- Protasevich said authorities treated him “correctly” and “lawfully” as he was taken into custody.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Belarusian authorities posted a video of the journalist arrested Monday after the government diverted a flight.
A passenger plane en route from Athens, Greece, to Lithuania landed in Minsk, Belarus, after air-traffic operators were warned of a security threat. Pilots on flight FR4978 were ordered to “divert to the nearest airport,” citing a potential bomb threat aboard the plane.
KGB agents boarded the aircraft soon after and did not find the security threat. They arrested the journalist Roman Protasevich, who has been publicly critical of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarusian state media reported it was Lukashenko who gave an “unequivocal order” to ground the jet in Minsk, despite data on Flightradar24 showing the plane made a sharp U-turn to land in Belarus, as it was closer to its destination in Lithuania than Minsk, Insider’s Cheryl Teh reported.
In the government video reposted by the Minsk reporter Hanna Liubakova later Monday, Protasevich confirmed he was detained by authorities at Minsk National Airport by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He said he’s had “no health concerns” and was treated “correctly” and “lawfully” when taken into custody.
Protasevich said he was cooperating with authorities and continued to “provide evidence related to the mass rallies in Minsk,” according to a translation by Insider.
-Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) May 24, 2021
But eyewitnesses said Protasevich expressed fear and told other passengers on the plane he was “facing the death penalty” as state authorities diverted the plane to take him into custody, Monika Simkiene, a passenger on the flight, told the AFP reporter Katy Lee.
“He was not screaming, but it was clear that he was very much afraid. It looked like if the window had been open, he would have jumped out of it,” Edvinas Dimsa, another passenger, told Lee.
Protasevich’s arrest drew international outrage, including from Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Union’s European Commission. She said the “outrageous and illegal behavior of the regime in Belarus will have consequences.”
“Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned,” von der Leyen said in a statement on Twitter. “Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also called the incident an “unprecedented act of state terrorism.”
“Hijacking of a civilian plane is an unprecedented act of state terrorism. It cannot go unpunished,” Morawiecki said in a statement, adding that he would petition for sanctions against Belarus in light of Protasevich’s arrest.
Katya Ionova contributed to the reporting in this article.