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May 23, 2021
Belarus Detains Reporter on Ryanair Flight Forced Down in Minsk
(Bloomberg) -- Belarusian authorities detained a journalist aboard a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius that was forced to land in Minsk.
Raman Pratasevich, the former editor-in-chief of the most popular Telegram news channel in Belarus, was arrested in the Minsk airport after the plane landed, according to the Minsk-based human rights center Viasna, which is not officially registered by the country’s authorities.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova declined to comment. Ryanair didn’t immediately respond to calls and emails outside of hours.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Twitter the flight was forced down and Pratasevich arrested in an “unprecedented event.” He called on NATO and the European Union to react to the threat posed by the Belarusian regime to civil aviation.
The plane, which was flying over Belarus en route to Lithuania, was escorted to Minsk by a MiG-29 fighter jet after a bomb threat, Belarusian state news agency Belta reported, citing the Minsk airport’s press service.
Pratasevich was put on a terrorist watch list in November by the Belarusian State Security Committee, known as the KGB. Under Pratasevich, the Nexta-Live Telegram channel covered police brutality at the mass protests against President Alexander Lukashenko after his disputed re-election last year.
Lithuania had granted Pratasevich political asylum.
Lukashenko is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin this week in Sochi, Rossiya-1 television channel reported Sunday.
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