Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.56 24 May 2021


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The Russian ambassador to Ireland has said there should not be "any rush to judgement" over the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Belarus.

The plane - which was flying from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday - was escorted by a Belarusian fighter jet after reports it had explosives on board, but none were found.

It was forced to divert from Minsk, where an opposition blogger - Roman Protasevich - was arrested.

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Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has branded the forced diversion as "state-sponsored hijacking".

He earlier told Newstalk Breakfast: "This was a case of state-sponsored hijacking… state-sponsored piracy.

“I can't say much about it because the EU authorities and NATO are dealing with it at the moment.

“We're debriefing our crew, who did a phenomenal job to get that aircraft and almost all the passengers out of Minsk after six hours."

Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Dublin in 2018 Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Dublin in 2018. Picture by: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

Mr O'Leary said the incident was "very frightening" for passengers and crew, as they were held under armed guard and had their bags searched.

"It appears the intent of the authorities was to remove a journalist and his travelling companion… we believe there were some KGB agents offloaded at the airport as well," Mr O'Leary added.

While Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has described it as "aviation piracy that's state-sponsored".

It comes as the European Council is calling on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus, and is calling on the council to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines.

And it says further targeted economic sanctions are needed, while asking for proposals on this "without delay".

While Ambassador Yury Filatov told The Hard Shoulder a full investigation needs to be carried out.

"There are many tough words around now - I don't think there should be any rush to judgement.

"There are clear rules which govern the airspace, the air travel under the International Civil Aviation Organisation and Convention.

"And I think that the incident has to be thoroughly investigated by the international aviation authorities".

Russian ambassador to Ireland calls for 'no rush to judgement' over forced Ryanair landing

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Main image: The Ryanair plane, which was traveling from Athens to Vilnius and diverted to Minsk after a bomb threat, lands at the international airport outside Vilnius, Lithuania on May 23rd, 2021. Picture by: Mindaugas Kulbis/AP/Press Association Images

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Ambassador Yury Filatov Belarus European Council Meeting Michael O'Leary Minsk Roman Protasevich Ryanair Ryanair Landing Simon Coveney

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