A Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania has been diverted to Belarus, with the country's opposition figures saying it was done so a dissident journalist on board could be arrested.
The Nexta media network said its ex-editor Roman Protasevich was detained.
Belarus state media said the plane was diverted to Minsk because of a bomb scare but no explosives were found.
European nations have reacted with outrage, accusing Belarus of "state terrorism" and demanding punishment.
The stunning gambit by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, a brutal and erratic leader who has clung to power despite huge protests against his government last year, was condemned by European officials, who called it a "state hijacking." But it also underscored that with the support of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Lukashenko is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to repress dissent.
[...] Upon the plane's arrival in Minsk, Mr. Protasevich was arrested, the country's interior ministry said in a statement that was later deleted from its official Telegram channel. No bomb was found on board, the country's law enforcement authorities said. The Investigative Committee, Belarus's top investigative agency, opened a criminal case into a false bomb threat.
Mr. Protasevich is a co-founder and a former editor of the NEXTA [nytimes.com] Telegram channel, one of the most popular opposition outlets in Belarus. Most independent media organizations in the country were forced to shut down after large-scale protests erupted over a disputed presidential election in 2020. The social network Telegram was left as one of the only means of uncensored communication.
Official Telegram [wikipedia.org] channel vs. opposition Telegram channel.