Ryanair CEO says Belarus plane grounding was ‘state-sponsored piracy’

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary gestures right by blueprint of an AFP interview at A4E aviation summit in Brussels on March 3, 2020.

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD | AFP | Getty Photos

LONDON — Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary on Monday said the dedication by Belarusian authorities to divert a plane flying over its territory and the following arrest of a journalist on board constituted “recount-sponsored piracy,” including he believed Belarusian KGB operatives had been traveling on the plane.

“This used to be a case of recount-sponsored hijacking … recount-sponsored piracy,” O’Leary instructed Irish Newstalk radio, including he believed the incident used to be likely the first of its variety for a European airline.

“It looks the intent of the authorities used to be to plan shut a journalist and his traveling partner … we mediate there were some KGB agents offloaded on the airport as effectively,” he said.

Belarus on Sunday ordered its militia to depart a fighter jet to force a Lithuania-certain Ryanair plane to alternate course and land in its capital metropolis, citing a seemingly security threat on board. Enlighten media in Belarus said President Alexander Lukashenko had personally given the present.

CNBC contacted the Belarusian foreign ministry for comment Monday nevertheless is yet to receive a reply.

Police arrested political activist and blogger Roman Protasevich, 26, when passengers disembarked. It used to be reported Protasevich’s girlfriend Sofya Sapega, a 23-three hundred and sixty five days-extinct Russian citizen studying on the European Humanities College in Lithuania, used to be additionally detained.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said by contrivance of Twitter on Sunday that the “sinful and unlawful behaviour of the regime in Belarus would possibly perchance perchance well accept penalties,” including these to blame “ought to be sanctioned.”

The European Union has customarily incessantly called for the rapid open of Protasevich and said it will discuss about the safe action to steal.

The U.S. echoed calls for the rapid open of Protasevich and said it condemned the “compelled diversion” of the flight.