The Belarusian Interior Ministry has confirmed on Telegram that Raman Pratasevich – the founder of the messaging app's "Nexta" channel – has been detained at Minsk Airport.
The airport's press service said that the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius on which Pratasevich was travelling was ordered to make an emergency landing in the Belorussian capital due to a bomb threat. A bomb team was reportedly sent to the airplane after it landed but no explosives were found.
In the wake of the landing, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on Sunday summoned the Belarusian charge d'affaires and demanded the "immediate release of all the passengers and the crew being held at Minsk Airport."
The German Foreign Ministry, in turn, demanded that the Belarusian authorities explain why Protasevich has been detained.
Sputnik has just been told by Minsk Airport that the plane is preparing for takeoff. It is scheduled for 19:00 Moscow time, a spokesperson for Ryanair said.
In a separate development, President of the European Council Charles Michel has called for an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) probe into an emergency landing of a Ryanair passenger plane in Minsk.
Very concerned regarding reports of a forced landing of #Ryanair flight in Minsk.— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) May 23, 2021
We call on Belarus authorities to immediately release the flight and all its passengers.
An #ICAO investigation of the incident will be essential.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned the detention of Belarusian activist Roman Protasevich after a Ryanair flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Minsk, and asked European Council President Charles Michel to include the issue of immediate sanctions on Belarus in tomorrow's Council meeting agenda.
I have asked @eucopresident to expand tomorrow's #EUCO agenda and discuss immediate sanctions against A. Lukashenka regime. Hijacking of a civilian plane is an unprecedented act of state terrorism. It cannot go unpunished.— Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) May 23, 2021
Berlin has demanded immediate explanations from Belarus on the emergency landing of a passenger plane in Minsk airport, Miguel Berger, the secretary of state at the Federal Foreign Office, said.
We need an immediate explanation by the Government of #Belarus on the diversion of a Ryan Air flight within the EU to Minsk and the alleged detention of a journalist.— Miguel Berger (@MiguelBergerAA) May 23, 2021
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen slammed Minsk for landing an Athens-Vilnius plane and urged the Belarusian authorities to immediately ensure that all passengers could safely continue their travel to the destination point.
It is utterly unacceptable to force @Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 23, 2021
ALL passengers must be able to continue their travel to Vilnius immediately and their safety ensured.
Any violation of international air transport rules must bear consequences.
In 2013, the plane of Bolivia's then-president Evo Morales was directed by Austria to make an emergency landing at the behest of the United States, during the hunt for National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor was never on board, though.