Minsk: A RyanAir flight travelling from Athens to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, that had an opposition journalist onboard, sparked a controversy when it changed direction midair and diverted to Belarus capital Minsk. The diversion was created due to an alleged bomb threat that the Belarusian flight controllers warned Ryanair about. However, as it has come to be known, the controversy runs deeper than just a bomb threat.Also Read - Vladimir Putin Suffering From Serious Illnesses, Including Cancer, Mentally Disarranged; Claims Ukraine Intel Chief

The 26-year-old blogger and activist Roman Protasevich who was wanted in his homeland for inciting protests against long-time President Alexander Lukashenko, among other charges, was arrested by the former Soviet nation after his Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania made an emergency landing on Sunday. Also Read - Cannes 2022 Controversy: Woman Goes Topless to Protest Against Sexual Violence in Ukraine

There was no explanation. Also Read - Breaking News Highlights: Explosion Reported in Karachi’s Kharadar Area

What happened on the RyanAir flight?

The whereabouts of dissident Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, who was taken into custody after Ryanair Flight FR4978 was forced to land in Minsk, remained unknown on Monday.

Once it landed, agents with dogs thoroughly searched the flight and the passenger luggage, and after several hours, they let the passenger plane continue to Vilnius. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary described the incident as “a case of state-sponsored hijacking … state-sponsored piracy.”

Why did Belarus do it?

The reason was simple – to arrest Pratasevich who left Belarus in 2019 after facing charges of inciting riots. The 26-year-old was a popular blogger, co-founder and editor of Nexta, a channel on messaging app Telegram that helped in organising protests against the President.

Russia is a close ally of Belarus.

Belarusian state media reported that the plane’s diversion came on Lukashenko’s personal instructions after he had purportedly been alerted to a possible bomb on board. According to reports, the Belarusian military even scrambled a MiG-29 fighter jet to encourage the crew to comply with the orders of flight controllers, when it was just about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Lithunian border.

Meanwhile, Protasevich’s father, Dmitry, said in an interview with Belarusian radio broadcaster Radio Svoboda that he was convinced that the careful operation did “not only involve” the country’s secret service.

“The operation was of a large enough scale to spit on the entire international community and their opinion,” said the dissident’s father, who called the forced landing “an act of terrorism.”

“We are very worried about our son… Unfortunately, we don’t know where he is and how he’s doing,” Dmitry said.

Governments across Europe reacted with outrage, suggesting authoritarian Belarus used the pretext of a safety threat to conduct a “state hijacking” of a civilian airliner to go after a critic.

Lukashenko, 66, has led Belarus, a former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe bordering EU states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, for more than a quarter of a century.