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

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


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

“This was a case of state-sponsored hijacking … state-sponsored piracy,” O’Leary told Irish Newstalk radio, including he believed the incident was probably the primary of its variety for a European airline.

“It appears the intent of the authorities was to remove a journalist and his traveling companion … we believe there were some KGB agents offloaded at the airport as well,” he stated.

Belarus on Sunday ordered its navy to scramble a fighter jet to drive a Lithuania-bound Ryanair plane to vary course and land in its capital metropolis, citing a possible safety risk on board. State media in Belarus stated President Alexander Lukashenko had personally given the order.

CNBC contacted the Belarusian overseas ministry for remark Monday however is but to obtain a reply.

Police arrested political activist and blogger Roman Protasevich, 26, when passengers disembarked. It was reported Protasevich’s girlfriend Sofya Sapega, a 23-year-old Russian citizen finding out on the European Humanities University in Lithuania, was additionally detained.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated by way of Twitter on Sunday that the “outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences,” including these accountable “must be sanctioned.”

The European Union has additionally referred to as for the rapid launch of Protasevich and stated it could talk about the suitable motion to take.

The U.S. echoed requires the rapid launch of Protasevich and stated it condemned the “forced diversion” of the flight.

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