A day after Belarusian fighter jets forced a Ryanair 737 enroute to Vilnius to divert to Minsk so that an opposition journalist could be arrested, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary called the incident hijacking and piracy.
Ryanair Boss Calls FR4978 “State-Sponsored Hijacking”
In a phone interview with Politico, O’Leary was far more blunt than a press release issued the day prior for his Irish budget carrier.
“This is a case of state-sponsored hijacking, state-sponsored piracy. Our crew did a phenomenal job to get that aircraft and almost all the passengers out of Minsk after six hours.”
“It was clear that the intent of the Belarusian authorities was to remove a journalist and his traveling companion. We believe some KGB agents were offloaded from the aircraft as well.”
Yes, in Belarus the intelligence service is still called the KGB…
Ryanair raised eyebrows yesterday by issuing a statement in which it proclaimed that nothing “nothing untoward” occurred (even though 26-year-old journalist Roman Protasevich and his companion were detained by a forced landing in Minsk):
Our FR4978 flight has landed safely in Vilnius at 19:25hrs UK time (21:25hrs local time). Here is Ryanair’s statement on today’s diversion to Minsk Airport 👇 pic.twitter.com/i0xhdpwTAF
— Ryanair Press Office (@RyanairPress) May 23, 2021
Today, O’Leary clarified those remarks by stating he was just following instructions by European Union authorities not to go into detail.
“We have to do a detailed debrief today with the NATO and EU authorities. It was extremely frightening for our crew and passengers. They were held under armed guard and had their bags searched.”
Will Ryanair flights continue to utilize Belarusian airspace? An airline spokesperson offers no clear answer:
“This is an option. It will depend on what the EU and others involved in ongoing consultations determine would be the best course of action given the circumstances.”
As of this morning, Ryanair flights continue to travel through the airspace of Belarus.
While O’Leary walked back Ryanair’s tone-deaf “nothing untoward” remarks, his airline continues to utilize Belarusian airspace as of this morning. EU leaders have also strongly condemned the move and are meeting today to jointly decide how to address the incident. Sanctions are already in place against Belarus, where strongman Alexander Lukashenko, known as “Europe’s last dictator” has been in power since 1994.
image: Ryanair / Instagram
@Matthew, I’m a little unclear here. The statement clearly says that “nothing untoward was found“, not that “nothing untoward happened”. This is important because the statement is clearly referencing the purported (and, obviously, bs) claim that there was a security threat onboard (a bomb, specifically, as I read elsewhere). It seems to me that the statement is an attempt to refute the pretense under which the aircraft was forced down. I’m not reading anything inaccurate or tone-deaf, so far as I understand the situation to have played out so far.
I kinda wish that Protasevich had considered that the flight plan might have taken him over Belarus when he booked his ticket, though I couldn’t fault him for not anticipating such an insane move.
These communists murdered a TWA Pilot engaged in a hot air ballon race. It had drifted across the edge of their claimed airspace and they used SAM’s to attack it. So hijacking a plane is child’s play for them. The International community is weak for allowing this. The NATO countries should conduct a surgical strike. Take out Command and Control and their political leaders with a few smart bombs. Free the people there. Thisnerrant Communist regime will continue this behavior including murdering unarmed protesters to hold power.
When you vote communists into power this is the end game. Keep voting Democrats into power and soon this will be the USA.
Its not a communist country, its a capitalist dictatorship lol
No, it is a communist country. It is an old Block that never had their peoples revolt. Aaron, you seem to be defending communism? Please go live there for a while and then come back and let us all know.
Putin could have the kidnapped political prisoner returned in an hour if he saw fit. The fact that he doesn’t shows yet again that Russia has restarted the Cold War and that we’re late to the party. The USA would be well advised to revise our views to accept that reality and plan from there.
No one is safe when any country can force land a commercial airliner flying in accordance with international aviation rules. Belarus – and their sympathizers – should be taught a brutal, harsh lesson that they will remember for a long time.
Never lived there, not defending communism, and nope, it isn’t a communist country anymore. Just stating facts. Not sure what your definition of communism is, but I am sure it isn’t correct.
Ok Aaron we can agree to define things differently. My wife was a refugee from Communist Romania. We know about Communism. Living in Miami I lived the fallout from the Fidel years and now living the fallout from all the other third world communist hellholes currently dumping their surplus humanity onto the taxpayers of Florida.
Expect a pale pink, slap on the wrist, “stop it , you naughty boys” response from the weak sisters in Brussels/Strasbourg. The neo-fascists are aro7nd the world are using COVID as cover for pushing the envelope.
Aaron is correct – Belarus is not communist. You can Google this; it won’t take long.
Who cares if Belarus is communist or not. Misses the point completely. Military air piracy cannot be tolerated in civil aviation outside of an act of war. Period.
“Ok Aaron we can agree to define things differently.”
No, that’s just a load of BS. Some things have a correct definition, which you are choosing to ignore when it comes to Belarus and communism.
Today it is nothing like Cuba nor Romania during it’s communist days. It’s a dictatorship but not one running under communist guidelines.
And yes, as DFWSteve mentions, it doesn’t matter what type of government and social system Belarus has, what they did was unacceptable.
The pilot was a coward. He knew this was a political persecution and landed the plane anyway. He should be condemend.
The Chicago Convention, signed in 1944, governs international civil aviation. It prohibits this type of activity. According to ATC protocol in case of bomb threats Vilinius would have been the airport to approach, not Minsk. Sending up a jet fighter was clearly intimidation to prevent the plane from entering Lithuanian airspace.
@Leo, the pilot is primarily responsible for the safety of all of his passengers. The very fact that a MIG-29 was even scrambled tells you that “normal” rules were not in play and that one could not have assumed that the jet wouldn’t have fired on that commercial plane if ignored. I have no problem with a pilot choosing the safety of his passengers over playing political games with a fighter jet threatening his aircraft. As reprehensible as I find Lukashenko’s actions to be (and they’re clearly going to backfire here), it’s patently ludicrous to suggest that the pilot should have acted differently.