Belarus forces Ryanair flight down to arrest reporter critical of government

A Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in Minsk as it flew over Belarussian airspace. Once on the ground, a journalist critical of the Eastern European dictatorship was pulled off the flight by police before it was permitted to continue its journey.

Ryanair says that its crew was "notified by Belarus ATC [air traffic control] of a potential security threat on board and were instructed to divert to the nearest airport, Minsk." That's not how the Belarus authorities characterized the incident. The Deputy Commander of Air Defense Forces, Major-General Andrey Gurtsevich, claimed that after the Ryanair crew were told of a "possible bomb on board," it was the captain who "made a decision to land at the reserve airfield (Minsk-2)." Gurtsevich said a Belarus Air Force MiG29 jet was dispatched to monitor the flight and "assist" if necessary. The Belarus version of events has been met with widespread disbelief and condemnation among the international community, despite an elaborate show of fire trucks when the plane landed, as well as extensive baggage checks. Nothing untoward was found, according to Ryanair. One reason for skepticism toward the Belarusian authorities' version: When it changed course, the Ryanair Boeing 737 — with 171 people on board — was much closer to its destination than it was to Minsk. Had there been a bomb on board, to prolong the flight would have been a perverse decision.

Ryanair itself is alarmingly disinterested in what commentators described as a state hijacking. It failed to report the detention of Raman Pratasevich in its press release about the incident, raising inevitable questions. But Ryanair's hatred for its customers is already legendary. To pose a corollary to Hanlon's razor, never attribute to complicity what is adequately explained by contempt.