News BlogHuman rights - IHLRussia Caucasus Ukraine

Belarusian regime hijacks Ryanair flight and kidnaps young opponent (v7)

(B2) The Lukashenko regime has just taken a new step. One of the main Belarusian opponents has just been arrested this Sunday after the interception in full flight of the plane where he was

(credit: Ryanair - archive images)

A set-up from scratch

According to the first elements made public, the case is worthy of the most beautiful detective stories.

The hypothesis of a fight on board as told by Tadeusz Giczan, the editor-in-chief of @nexta_tv (the media founded by Protasevic) — which stated: “ KGB officers spring into action, they start a fight with Ryanair crew, insisting there is an explosive device on board — was not confirmed by arriving passengers. " There's been no conflicts, there's been no scandals before the turn of the plane to Minsk, according to Delphi.

An order from the control tower to turn around

Contrary to what Minsk claims, it was not the pilot of the plane who issued an SOS. But the Belarusian air traffic control service which ordered him to turn around. " For security reasons. The authorities received an email [indicating the presence of a bomb] said air traffic control, according to a recording of the sound in the pilot's cabin. At this time, the plane is only about 90 km from Vilnius airport, it has already begun its descent. And it is 200 km from Minsk. NB: in terms of security, the logic is to go to the nearest airport, Vilnius.

The Mig 29 enter the dance to intercept the Boeing

One (or two) Belarusian Mig29 aircraft burst in, next to the Boeing 737-8AS. He instructs the pilot to follow him, with the inscription 'Follow me'. Which is normally an imperative order that every civilian pilot must carry out. The plane was apparently armed with six air-to-air missiles are visible - indicate the fans of the aviation site Aviatica -: " four of type [Vympel] R-73L [NATO code: Archer] and 2 of type [Vympel] R-27R [NATO code: Alamo]”. The Mig 29 then escorted the civilian aircraft to its landing at Minsk airport, before returning to its base at Baranovichi.

The Mig29 aircraft back at its base (Aviatica video - B2 selection)

An Mi24 helicopter was also out, according to the Lithuanian President's Sherpa, Asta Skaisgirytė.

Immobilized by order of Lukashenko

Upon arrival in Minsk, the security services take over, entering the plane, and only have to arrest the opponent. Just before the soldiers take him away, R. Protasevičius has time to say to the passages next to him: “ they will execute me. I will die here. »

The device is then immobilized by order of the Head of State according to the Department of the Interior Ministry for the Fight against Organized Crime and Corruption (HUBAZiK), quoted by the media Belsat. The inspection of the plane lasts about three hours, according to the Lithuanian media Delphi. Dogs sniff the luggage. The identities of each passenger are checked. Flight FR 4978 of the Irish company * which was to arrive at 13 p.m. in Vilnius will not arrive immediately...

A strong European condemnation

A real state kidnapping

A very challenging process that could be likened to a state kidnapping. The emotion is strong especially in the Baltic countries, neighbors of Belarus. " An unprecedented event! The regime is behind this heinous action denounces the Lithuanian President, Gitanas Nausėda.

« An outrageous violation of international law and an act of state sponsored terrorism. Another red line has been crossed denounces MEP Sandra Kalniete, former Latvian Foreign Minister.

The emotion could win over all of Europe. " It's nothing less than an act of piracy loose the former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bild. " If really there was an emergency, Vilnius airport was clearly closer. »

A subject for the European summit

Emotion is gradually spreading to all European capitals. " We call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release the flight and all its passengers “has just indicated Charles Michel, the President of the European Council via twitter. " An ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] investigation into the incident is essential ».

The subject could be raised on Monday evening during the dinner of Heads of State and Government, meeting face-to-face in Brussels. The case cannot remain unanswered, concerning a flight carried out by a European company between two European cities.

(update) On Sunday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is asking to put this issue on the agenda for Monday's EU summit. And " to discuss sanctions immediately against the Lukashenko regime ". " Kidnap a civilian plane is an unprecedented act: State terrorism. This cannot go unpunished. »

The Greek Prime Minister makes the same request.

And, finally, around 20:20 p.m., the news officially falls. The subject is put on the agenda of the Summit. " The consequences and possible sanctions will be discussed on the occasion “indicates the spokesperson for Charles Michel.

For the Secretary General of NATO who speaks via Twitter, who are " this is a serious and dangerous incident that requires an international investigation ».

The plane landed in Vilnius shortly before 21 p.m. Two Belarusians (Protasevic and his friend) and four Russians (whose identity remains unknown) are missing, according to the Polish Foreign Ministry.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

*Actually operated by Polish subsidiary, Ryanair Sun or Buzz

All of Europe concerned. Of the 171 passengers on board, there are passengers of many European nationalities. Out of 149 passengers (for whom information is known, according to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister), the majority are Lithuanians (94). There are also 11 Greeks, 9 French, 5 Romanians, 4 Belarusians, 4 Poles, 3 Germans, 1 Austrian, 1 Belgian, 1 Bulgarian, 1 Cypriot, 1 Spaniard, 2 Latvians, 3 Russians, 1 Georgian, 2 Syrians.

Paper completed with the reactions of Charles Michel, of the Polish Prime Minister of the Greek Prime Minister, of Jens Stoltenberg / Number of passengers on board / Confirmation of registration at the European summit / Details concerning the interception of the plane / Testimonies of the passages on arrival and correction of the first version on an incident with agents on board

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).