Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Economy

Minutes to touchdown: The moment a Belarusian dissident knew his time was up

Opposition blogger and activist Roman Protasevich, who is accused of participating in an unsanctioned protest at the Kuropaty preserve, waits before the beginning of a court hearing in Minsk, Belarus April 10, 2017. — REUTERS/STRINGER

VILNIUS — Ryanair Flight 4978 had already begun its descent into the Lithuanian capital when the pilot announced that the plane would be suddenly diverting to Minsk, capital of neighboring Belarus.

There was no explanation.

But one of the passengers aboard the Boeing 737 reacted immediately, standing up from his seat, reaching into the overhead locker, pulling a laptop computer from his hand luggage and passing it to a female companion along with his mobile phone.

Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who is wanted in Belarus for his role in broadcasting huge opposition protests in Minsk last year, did not have much time. Minsk is less than 200 kms (125 miles) from Vilnius. The diversion would take minutes.

“When it was announced, they were going to land in Minsk, Roman stood up, opened the luggage compartment, took luggage and was trying to split things,” said a Lithuanian passenger, who gave his name only as Mantas.

“I think he made a mistake. There were plenty of people so he could give the things to me or other passengers and not the girlfriend, who was also I think arrested.”

Outside the plane — although not visible to Mantas — was a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet, on orders from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to force the plane to Minsk.

Mantas was speaking to Reuters after a day-long ordeal that began in Athens and finally ended late in the evening in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, after a stopover of more than seven hours in Minsk.

Another exhausted passenger, speaking to reporters without giving her name, said Mr. Protasevich looked “super scared.”

“I looked directly into his eyes and he was very sad,” she said.

Belarusian authorities had diverted the flight as it passed over the country because of a suspected bomb alert, state news agency BelTA said. The alert later turned out to be false.

‘STANDING ALONE’
Mr. Protasevich, 26 was immediately separated on arrival in Minsk and checks of luggage using sniffer dogs turned up nothing.

“We saw that Roman was stopped due to some things in the luggage,” Mr. Mantas said, adding that the other passengers also had their luggage checked and were taken by bus to the terminal where they spent several hours waiting to reboard the plane.

“We saw from the window that Roman is standing alone, and one policeman with dog was trying to find something (in his luggage).”

Another passenger, who also did not give his name, told Lithuanian media that Mr. Protasevich had identified himself to Belarusian security officials on arrival. “I saw how his passport was taken away. He took off his mask and said: ‘I’m so-and-so and I’m the reason why all this is going on.’”

The European Union (EU) called for Mr. Protasevich’s immediate release, with the head of the EU’s executive European Commission and the Polish prime minister describing the incident as a hijacking.

The other passengers looked weary on arrival in Vilnius, with Mr. Mantas saying they had spent hours in queues for luggage and passport checks in Minsk before being allowed into a lounge to await takeoff.

He said he could not be sure if Mr. Protasevich’s companion, who took the laptop and phone, had also been detained in Minsk, but there appeared to be more empty seats on the final Minsk-Vilnius journey than when it took off from Athens.

“It means that more than one person was (taken) out of the plane — but (it’s) difficult to say exactly.”

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told a news conference late on Sunday that Mr. Protasevich’s female companion had also not re-embarked the flight from Minsk to Vilnius. — Reuters

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.
Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!

Latest

Economy

THE SENATE on Monday ratified the Bicameral Conference Committee report on a measure that seeks to lower the minimum investment hurdle for foreign retailers...

Economy

The Philippines is one of 17 countries that have kept schools fully closed since the pandemic began, according to a report released by the...

Economy

Workers are busy cleaning in preparation for the restaurant’s reopening in Marikina City. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS THE RESTAURANT industry is anticipating some...

Economy

EXCISE TAX collections from cigarettes jumped by 31% to P83 billion in the first seven months, with more than half coming from Philip Morris...

Investing

The world’s largest franchisor of home service brands, has announced the acquisition of Pimlico Plumbers, central London’s leading independent residential and commercial service and...

Economy

MEGAWORLD Corp. will be spending P40 billion to develop an eco-tourism township in Palawan in the next 10 to 15 years, Andrew L. Tan’s...

You May Also Like

Investing

Having a good Instagram marketing agency to back up your Instagram account is an absolute must going into the new year. With competition stronger...

Economy

Ivermectin, an existing drug against parasites including head lice, has had a checkered history when it comes to treating COVID-19. The bulk of studies...

Investing

As a traditionally rigid insurance industry becomes bogged down by antiquated processes and operations, a handful of industry leaders are seeking to shake things...

Economy

US President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., will rely on ally countries to supply the bulk of the metals needed to build electric vehicles and focus on...

Disclaimer: SmartRetirementReport.com, its managers, its employees, and assigns (collectively "The Company") do not make any guarantee or warranty about what is advertised above. Information provided by this website is for research purposes only and should not be considered as personalized financial advice. The Company is not affiliated with, nor does it receive compensation from, any specific security. The Company is not registered or licensed by any governing body in any jurisdiction to give investing advice or provide investment recommendation. Any investments recommended here should be taken into consideration only after consulting with your investment advisor and after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Copyright © 2021 SmartRetirementReport. All Rights Reserved.

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.



Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!