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Belarus ​condemned by global leaders after forced landing of Ryanair flight carrying journalist

Journalist Roman Protasevich was labeled as a terrorist by Belarusian officials after his popular Nexta Telegram channel organized protests.

Belarus ​condemned by global leaders after forced landing of Ryanair flight carrying journalist
Roman Protasevich addresses the crowd next to a famous Gdańsk’s Shipyard Gate number 2 on August 31, 2020 during a ‘Free Warsaw for Free Belarus’ support rally to express the solidarity with Belarusians people. [Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images]
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Yesterday Ryanair Flight FR4978 took off from Athens, Greece, at 9:29 a.m. local time toward its destination in Vilnius, Lithuania. But as flight FR4978 was about to exit Belarus airspace, the flight suddenly made a sharp right turn and headed to Minsk, escorted by a MiG-29 fighter sent from the Belarus military, reports Bloomberg.

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When FR4978 touched down in Minsk, two of its passengers, journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, were promptly escorted off the plane and arrested by Belarusian police. Protasevich is a Belarusian journalist in exile who has been highly critical of the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarusian). Protasevich runs the popular Nexta Telegram channel, which played a key role in organizing protests against Lukashenko last year.

After Protasevich and Sapega were escorted from Flight FR4978, it was allowed to take off again and continue to its original destination, according to a statement from Ryanair.

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However, once the implications of what happened became clear, Ryanair released another statement:

The reaction to the diversion of Flight FR4978 from western leaders has been swift, with some calling the act “state terrorism” by Belarus.

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However, some of the social media reaction has been a bit different. While social media posts have in general strongly condemned the diversion of Flight FR4978 and the arrests of Protasevich and Sapega, some reporters and human rights activists are saying the outrage from the European Unions and the United States over the diversion of Flight FR4978 is hypocritical.

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As of the time of this writing, the status of Protasevich and Sapega remains unknown.

About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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