Ryanair boss says pilot had no choice but to land in Minsk

Ryanair boss says pilot had no choice but to land in Minsk
Ryanair flight FR4978 was travelling from Athens to Vilnius on 23 May when it made an abrupt change of course land in Minsk, Belarus. Source: HO VIA EPA
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Daily US Times: The pilot of a Ryanair flight that was diverted to Belarus capital Minsk, allowing the arrest of an opposition journalist, had been warned that a bomb would detonate if it continued to Lithuania, according to the chief of the airline.

Michael O’Leary said the pilot tried to seek advice from Ryanair but was given false excuses by Belarus officials that Ryanair was not answering the phone.

The Ryanair boss called the incident “a premeditated breach” of global aviation rules.

Belarus denies the accusation that it was a forced landing the aircraft.

Journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested after the plane landed in Minsk. Both remain in prison.

Ryanair flight FR4978 was travelling from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday 23 May when it made an abrupt change of course over Belarus, some 10km (six miles) from the Lithuanian border.

The incident has drawn condemnation from the UK, the EU and other Western nations. They reacted by banning Belarus’s state carrier Belavia from their airports and ordering airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

In a detailed account on Tuesday, Mr O’Leary told a British parliamentary committee of the series of events that led to the plane’s diversion.

Minsk air traffic control told the pilot they had received “a credible threat that if the aircraft entered Lithuanian air space, or attempted to land at Vilnius airport… a bomb on board would be detonated”.

The pilot “repeatedly” requested to speak to Ryanair’s operations control centre, but “Minsk gave excuses that Ryanair in Poland were not answering the phone”, he said.

Mr O’Leary explained that flights in this area would normally be diverted to Poland or the Baltic states, but that the pilot was given no option but to land in Belarus capital.

You may read: Belarus ‘diverts Ryanair flight to arrest journalist’, opposition says