A leading Belarusian opposition activist has been arrested in Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a fighter jet to escort his Ryanair plane to Minsk, according to Pull Pervogo, the Belarusian state broadcaster.
Raman Pratasevich, in exile and a vocal critic of President Alexander Lukashenko‘s regime, was detained at Minsk airport, the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs said on Sunday.

The original flight route was Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has demanded Belarus release Mr Pratasevich. Mr Nauseda called the incident “abhorrent” and an “unprecedented event” in a tweet.

He said a “civilian passenger plane flying to Vilnius was forcibly landed in Minsk.”

The Belarusian “regime is behind the abhorrent action,” he tweeted and demanded Mr Pratasevic be freed “urgently.”

Other world leaders to condemn the apparent forced landing included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Irish European Affairs Minister Thomas Byrne and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Mr Pratasevich is the founder of the Telegram channel Nexta, which was broadly used to organise anti-government protests, and another similar channel critical of the government, both of which are classified as extremist in Belarus.

Mr Pratasevich is also on a government wanted list for terrorism. There are differing reports as to why the budget airline Ryanair plane was forced to land.

The Minsk airport told Russian state media RIA Novosti, that the plane made the emergency landing after an unconfirmed bomb threat.

However a spokesperson for Lithuania airports, told LRT National Radio that it was due to a conflict between a passenger and one of the crew members. Lina Beishene said the Lithuanian civil aviation authorities had not been informed about a bomb threat.

A leading opposition figure said the Belarusian regime “forced the landing of the plane in Minsk to arrest journalist and activist Raman Pratasevich.”

On Twitter, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said Mr Pratasevich faced the death penalty in Belarus. “We demand the immediate release of Raman, an @ICAO (international aviation group) investigation and sanctions against Belarus.”

The Foreign Minister of Lithuania said the news of the forced landing was disturbing.

Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted that he was “working with international partners to secure safe passage back to Vilnius for all passengers.”

This content first appear on 9news

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