Ireland’s foreign minister: Belarusian “air piracy” must be a strong response

The Irish foreign minister called the interception of the Ryan flight by Belarus and the arrest of the opposition journalist on board an act of “air piracy”. He stressed that this cannot be done with a warning and called for sanctions. The EU summit today will discuss the matter.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Monday condemned as an act of state “piracy” the hijacking by Belarusian authorities of an Irish Ryanair plane and its forced landing in Minsk to arrest an opposition figure on board.

This is effectively an act of state-sanctioned air piracy,” Simon Coveney said on Irish public radio station RTE. He added that “we cannot allow this incident to happen anymore and only respond with a warning or a strong press release.” He also called for “sanctions.”

He added, “We cannot allow this to happen, responding only with warnings or strong press statements, but with “sanctions.

Simon Coveney also tweeted that the incident was completely unacceptable. This was an Aer Lingus flight with EU citizens on board that was forced to land in Minsk while sailing between two EU cities. It is necessary for the EU to give Belarus a strong response. If the EU does not act or hesitates, it will be seen as weak by Belarus.

A Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet intercepted flight FR49-78 from Athens to Vilnius on Sunday, carrying Roman Protassevich, a former editor of the Belarusian opposition media Nexta. The airliner eventually arrived in Lithuania several hours later than scheduled, and Protassevich was arrested in Minsk.

Belarusian state television assured that the plane landed in Minsk due to a “bomb threat” alert that turned out to be false, and claimed that Mr. Protassevich only “drew the attention of law enforcement agencies” when the plane’s passengers “passed through border and customs checks again.