The European Union, Greece and a number of other member states have condemned Belarus for forcing a Ryanair plane to land at Minsk airport.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the forced landing of the plane to detain Raman Pratasevich, a prominent critic of the country’s autocratic president, was an “unprecedented and shocking” act.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to scramble and accompany the Ryanair plane to Minsk due to a supposed bomb threat to the airliner as it flew over Belarus en route from Greece to Lithuania.
Officials said no bomb was found onboard, but during security checks on passengers, police arrested Protasevich, who was placed on a terrorist watchlist and accused of several crimes by Belarusian security services during their brutal crackdown on last year’s huge opposition protests against Lukashenko’s 26-year rule.
“We demand all passengers’ immediate release … Enough is enough,” Mitsotakis tweeted.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry also condemned what it called a “state hijacking”.
11 Greek citizens were on 171 passenger Ryanair flight.
“This act which placed passengers’ lives in danger is unacceptable,” it said, calling for the immediate release of the plane and all of its passengers.
“Such practices … are not in line with any civilised state and cannot stay unanswered.”
European leaders reacted with outrage and the matter is set to be discussed at a European Council meeting in Brussels on Monday.
“The incident will not remain without consequences,” warned European Council president Charles Michel in a statement, saying he condemned the act “in the strongest possible terms”.