2021.05.23 22:12

Lithuanian prosecutors launch probe into ‘aircraft hijacking’ by Belarusian regime, BNS2021.05.23 22:12

Lithuania's prosecutors have launched a probe into aircraft hijacking after the Belarusian regime scrambled its air force to divert a Vilnius-bound Ryanair flight to Minsk in order to arrest an opposition journalist.

“A pre-trial investigation into aircraft hijacking and prohibited treatment of people under international law has been launched,” Elena Martinonienė, head of communications at the General Prosecutor’s Office, told BNS on Sunday.

On Sunday night, the Lithuanian police posted on Facebook that the Criminal Police Bureau was conducting the investigation "based on two articles of the Criminal Code: enforced disappearance and hijacking of an aircraft".

The bureau has already identified and will question the first witnesses, will collect other relevant and will cooperate with prosecutors and officials of other EU countries in its investigation.

Read more: Belarus scrambles air force, diverts Vilnius-bound flight to Minsk to arrest dissident

The Ryanair flight from Athens with 171 passengers was to arrive in Vilnius at 13:00 on Sunday, but was forced to turn back before crossing the Lithuanian border and land in the Belarusian capital. Minsk Airport told the Interfax news agency that it had received a report about a bomb onboard.

Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is currently in exile in Vilnius, released a statement, saying that the flight was grounded in order to arrest Belarusian opposition activist and blogger Roman Pratasevich, editor of the opposition Telegram channel Nexta.

Asta Skaisgirytė, chief foreign policy adviser to the Lithuanian president, said that Belarus used two military aircraft, a MiG-29 fighter jet and a Mi-24 helicopter, in the operation, which was likely staged by the Belarusian KGB.

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