First-Person Accounts Of What Happened When Belarus Hijacked A Ryanair Flight Sunday

Belarus used a fake bomb threat to justify sending a fighter jet to intercept Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania – and force it to land in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Then, once it was on the ground, they snatched a journalist who had been highly critical of the nation’s strongman leader – and living in exile to avoid just this fate.

Now we know more about what happened as that plane was forced to land, and how the rest of the passengers were treated on the ground.

  • The journalist stood up, appeared “shocked and scared” and asked for protection,

    “Don’t do this. They will kill me. I am a refugee,” Protasevic pleaded with the cabin crew, to no avail, according to other Belarusian passengers who described the scene afterward. A flight attendant cited “legal agreements” in telling Protasevich that the crew had no choice but to land, according to Raselle, who gave only her first name, saying she was afraid of Belarusian authorities.

  • Passengers were offloaded from the aircraft five at a time. Dogs sniffed the passengers and their bags. Then they waited on a bus for approximately one hour before being taken to the terminal.

  • Belarus took not just the journalist but also his girlfriend.

  • For seven hours on the ground,

    “The Belarusian authorities treated us like prisoners, we were so many hours in the bus, then at the airport for hours without water or being able to go to the toilet, all in order to have this show that they were actually searching for something, when they only wanted to get the guy,” Raselle said.

    Others reported being “kept standing in a dark corridor for three hours.”

Passengers realized the bomb threat claim was a hoax because “people were standing around the plane doing nothing, looking pleased with themselves,” not worrying about explosives. European leaders are calling the incident “state terrorism” and a “hijacking.”

(HT: Paul H.)

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  1. I encourage everyone to click on Raselle’s instagram in the link at the bottom of the politico piece.

  2. What I’m wondering is why this hijacking occurred where it did. If the Belarus crew knew in advance that Protasevic was going to be aboard then they would have either grabbed him in Greece or intercepted the plane before it was so near Lithuania. That implies that Lukashenko was informed of this very last minute, very possibly by fellow passengers just before departure. I think a close look at the passenger manifest might prove very insightful on whether that’s plausible.
    In any case it’s time to realize that our enemies know that the bad old days of The Cold War have returned and we need to prepare responses to more upcoming gross violations of international norms and laws by states that simply don’t care about morality or legality but solely consider whether they get get away with doing as they like.

  3. If I was on that flight I would have demanded to speak to U.S. consular services as soon as I realized what was actually happening.

  4. 1. Airlines will stay out of Belarus
    2. You have to wonder what would have happened if the crew had refused to land and continued to the border where Belarus would have had to drop their pursuit. Apparently the Ryanair crew weren’t convinced there was an issue from the beginning.

  5. Seizing/renditioning targets by way of planting false stories is old hack for state actors and their proxies, but it’s not everyday that it involves such government-sponsored actors calling in a bomb threat to try to justify a military jet-escorted diversion and grounding of an international commercial passenger flight to grab a government-wanted target.

    Let’s see if there is any real meaningful and lasting response to this kind of government shenanigan being used against a commercial passenger flight. There certainly hasn’t been much in the way of meaningful sanctions for other government shenanigans to ground other kinds of flights so as to try to intercept government-wanted targets. Perhaps you can recall other times when shenanigans have been in play to try to intercept a government-wanted target from other international flights being subject to an unscheduled landing/diversion at the demand of a government?

  6. It will be interesting to see how far Putin backs up this thuggish government. He has wanted more influence and control in Belarus for a long time, and may be the only friend they’ve got. But with friends like that…. The simple fact is that dictators get away with what they can, such as chopping up or kidnapping journalists. We are lucky in the US that our last go around was with someone who was gross and inept. We may not be so lucky again.

  7. “If I was on that flight I would have demanded to speak to U.S. consular services as soon as I realized what was actually happening.”

    Okay Karen. Your complaint will be addressed in the order in which it was received.

  8. @Mike S — The point was not to complain to the manager, genius. It was to get a third-party government involved ASAP in the midst of an international abduction.

  9. @Luke – and you expect the “abducting” party to allow you to make that call? What’s going to happen next, the Marines from Post One are going to come rescue you, maybe wait for a UN resolution condemning the action? Real world, in this instance it sucks but you’re stuck buddy.

  10. Of course the marines aren’t going to “rescue me.” It wasn’t about rescuing me. Under the Vienna Convention, you have the right to speak to a consular officer or ambassador when detained in a foreign country. And to avoid an international incident, they might allow a consular officer perhaps with a few attachés to speak to me. Probably not, but at this point they now potentially have a problem with the U.S. government on their hands after the trouble they’ve gone through in order to abduct this person. If they do let someone through from the embassy, I can then inform this person what is actually happening, and perhaps in a few hours it will have been escalated up the State Department.

  11. @Luke – sounds like a some a Tom Clancy movie. LOL
    But I don’t think they give .02 about the Vienna Convention or avoiding an international incident. They just created one.

  12. OK, boomer. Feel free to stand there with your thumb up your butt if you ever witness something like this yourself.

  13. Who here would pay money to see Luke take on Belarus OMON and the subsequent beatdown, demanding his “rights” as an American ….

  14. @Luke So is your real name Edward Snowden? (kidding)

    With that said, what you proposed makes sense if it is a non-US government abducting a US citizen/national. How practical it is, being that you’re on a plane, is a matter of debate.

    Also, for this situation, it is equivalent of a citizen being abducted by their own government, so speaking to your own Consular Officer is actually a worse outcome.

  15. Applebaum writes: the head of RT, the Russian state-sponsored international television channel, has tweeted that the hijacking makes her “envy” Belarus. Lukashenko, she wrote, “performed beautifully.”

    Gary, you simply cannot go on RT again.

  16. This is why I always fly on private jets and keep my travel plans on the down low. Travelling commercial aircraft is for the poor and you pay the consequences. Gotta go my champagne is getting warm.

  17. How is this different from Obamas administration diverting a plane of Bolivian president no less, hoping to snag Snowden?

  18. @Luke – are you a moron on every thread or just the ones that I happen to read?

Comments are closed.