Belarusian opposition person detained when the flight detoured

A prominent opposition to the authoritarian president of Kiev-Belarus, Ukraine, was arrested on Sunday after the airline he was traveling to was diverted to the country after the threat of a bomb.

According to presidential news agency, President Alexander Lukashenko will accompany a MiG-29 fighter on a Ryan Air plane and carry an opponent, Raman Platasevic, from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania, to the airport in the capital Minsk. I personally ordered him to do it.

Air Force Deputy Commander Andrey Gruzevic said the plane’s crew had decided to land in Minsk, but Ryanair said in a statement that Belarus’ air traffic control would detour the plane to the capital. He said he had instructed.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda also claimed that the plane had to land in Minsk, saying Lukashenko’s “system is behind it.”

The Belarusian Ministry of Interior said Plata Sevic was arrested at the airport. Pratasevich is the co-founder of the Nexta channel of the Telegram messaging app, and Belarus declared it an extremist last year after being used to organize a large-scale protest against Lukashenko.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will attend the Belt and Road Forum Roundtable Phase 1 session on May 15, 2017 at the International Conference Center in Beijing, Beijing, China. (LintaoZhang / Pool / Reuters)

Platasevic, who fled the country for Poland, faces a crime that could result in imprisonment of up to 15 years.

The presidential press said the plane was threatened with a bomb while crossing Belarus’ territory. Officials later said no explosives were found on board. According to the flight tracker site, the plane was about 10 km (6 miles) away from the Lithuanian border when the course was changed.

The exiled opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsukhanouskaya, called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to begin an investigation.

“It’s absolutely clear that this is a special service operation that hijacks aircraft to detain activist and blogger Raman Platasevic,” she said in a statement. “No one flying over Belarus can be sure of his safety.”

Belarusian officials said the plane had 123 passengers. It was expected to resume the trip to Vilnius late Sunday.

Western nations have also expressed caution.

Belarus “revealed an insult to the international community and its citizens,” said US Ambassador Julie Fisher, who described the event as “dangerous and abominable.”

European Council Chair Charles Michel reiterated Chikanoskaya’s call for an investigation by ICAO.

According to official results, Lukashenko was given a sixth term, with several months of protests following the presidential election in August last year.

Police cracked down on protests, detained about 30,000 people and beat many of them.

The protests disappeared during the winter, but Belarus continued to take action against opposition and independent media outlets. Last week, 11 staff members of the news website were detained by police.

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