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Ryanair jet ‘Highjacked’ by Belarus: What you need to know

Roman Protasevich was a passenger on Ryanair flight, Picture: Reuters, The Irish sun & Sydney Herald

An unprecedented incident happened today when Belarus forced a commercial airliner from another country carrying passengers to land or else it threatened to shoot it down. The world is shocked at this incident and if no one is made to take responsibility soon, air travel will no longer be safe. Here is everything we know about the situation so far:

  • Ryanair flight 4978, on-route to Vilnius, Lithuania from Athens, Greece on Sunday was ‘highjacked’ by Belarus fighter jets and forced to land in Minsk, Belarus.

  • The flight had Roman Protasevich, 26, as one of its passengers. Protasevich is an activist who had been on the wanted list in Belarus for almost a year after the mass street protests in wake of an election dispute.

  • The Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has condemned the action by Belarus and has called for Roman’s release and international response. He released a statement saying, “I call on NATO and EU allies to immediately react to the threat posed to international civil aviation by the Belarus regime. The international community must take immediate steps that this does not repeat”.

  • Flight 4978 had 179 passengers from 12 countries. Protasevich had been living in Lithuania since November.

  • Both Belarus and Lithuania were a part of the Soviet Union but now Belarus is a close ally of Russia and Lithuania is a part of the EU.

  • The plane was allowed to leave Minsk a few hours later, but Roman Protasevich was not on it. He is currently facing a ‘death penalty' in Belarus.

  • Many leaders from the EU including Poland and Germany have released statements condemning the actions of Belarus and demanding the release of Roman Protasevich.

  • Lithuania’s foreign minister has said that Belarus’s airspace should be declared “completely unsafe for any commercial flight”.

The situation is still developing and currently, there is no official response from Russia, Belarus, or the USA.

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