- How safe is it for commercial airlines to fly over certain countries, including Belarus?
- Hopefully, Belarus is not setting a new trend for state-sponsored hijacking and terrorism.
- A commercial flight operated by Ryanair was on a route to fly from the capital of one EU member country Greece to another member country Lithuania, from Athens to Vilnius.
All passengers went through European strict security checks. They took off shoes, had their lap-tops scanned separately from their hand luggage, and bringing liquid was illegal.
Ryanair is an airline based in another EU Country Ireland and operated its scheduled flight. FR 4978 was leaving its cruising altitude of 39,000 feet to land in Vilnius after a 3-hour flight from Athens when Belarus aviation authorities warned the captain of a possible bomb on board.
Instead of continuing to the closest airport at that time, what would have been the destination airport Vilnius, Belarus authorities instructed the pilot to make a U-turn just two miles from the border and revert thje Boeni Belarus capital city of Minsk.
There was an emergency for Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko. One of his enemies was a passenger on this plane. His name is Roman Protasewitsch, a journalist and blogger critical to Belarus ruler.
Once the plane touched down in Minsk authorities stormed the plane and arrested the blogger and two of his friends. In addition two other passengers, who may have been KGB agents left the plane.
The bomb was no longer an issue at that time, but to keep up the show bags were unloaded and sniffer dogs tried to find bombs.
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, who is in exile, told Sky News that she was afraid for Protasevich’s life. He is a high-profile opponent of President Lukashenko. “We don’t just worry about his freedom, but about his life,”
The EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell, on behalf of all 27 EU countries, called for the Belarusian journalist to be released immediately. His arrest is another obvious attempt by the Belarusian authorities to silence all opposition voices.
With the forced landing in Minsk, the Belarusian authorities would have endangered the safety of the passengers and the crew, said Borrell. The incident must lead to an international investigation. “Measures against those responsible” should be discussed at the EU special summit, which begins in Brussels in the evening.”
Also the United States demanded the immediate release of the journalist and said 100 passengers and crew, including US citizens were put in danger by Belarus.
In 2013 the United States and Austria were accused to force a private airplane on a flight originating in Russia forced to land overflying Austria. The reason was Edward Snowden was thought to be a passenger onboard this Bolivian jet carrying the Bolivian president. Edward Snowden was a former U.S. intelligence worker who leaked secret data. The situation here was different since the plane was unable to continue its route since France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy reportedly refused permission to fly over their territories giving in on pressure from the United States.
How can the international aviation industry protect itself from countries to engage in state sponsored hijacking of passenger flights?