Vilnius-Lithuania is working to verify the identities of passengers aboard a detoured Ryanair plane after being forced to land in Belarus, a Lithuanian criminal police secretary said Friday.
When the plane landed, dissident Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevic, 26, and girlfriend Sophia Sapega, 23, were arrested.
However, the other three also disembarked. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said they were likely to be secret police.
Also on Friday, the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it would expel two Belarusian diplomats and that their activities were “incompatible with diplomatic status.”
“This decision will bring Lithuania into solidarity with Latvia. Latvian diplomats and employees of the Minsk embassy were unfairly expelled by Belarus a few days ago,” the statement said.
Belarusian television aired an interview on Wednesday with three people who said they were the passengers in question.
One named Iason Zisis, who is said to be a Greek graduate student working at Eindhoven University, travels from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to Minsk, the planned destination of the plane, to his wife. He said he was planning to visit.
Belarusian television has named others Alexandra Stabredova and Sergei Krakov, Belarusian citizens. Stabredova also said he was heading to Minsk anyway, and Krakov said it was convenient for the city of Vitebsk, where Minsk was his final destination.
“We are working to verify the identity of the person named in an informal source to see if it matches the personal identification data,” Lithuanian police chief Laurandas Kiskiss told reporters.
He said Belarus confirmed that five passengers had disembarked in Minsk, and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Poland had also begun investigating the case because civilians were on board the plane.
Kiss Kiss said the aircraft was still in Vilnius and was being searched, but Ryanair wasn’t as useful as he had hoped.