A scheduled Lufthansa flight from Minsk, Belarus to Frankfurt, Germany was delayed by two hours on Monday after Belarusian officials said they had received an unspecified security alert directed at the flight. The incident occurred a day after Belarus was accused of ‘hijacking’ a Ryanair plane flying through its airspace in order to arrest a dissident blogger and journalist.
Lufthansa flight LH1487 eventually took off at 4:21 pm local time after a delay of two hours on the ground in Belarus. Passengers had been directed off the plane and were subjected to a second search and the aircraft was swept by Belarusian security officials.
Belarus did not specify the nature of the threat made against the Lufthansa operated Airbus A319 aircraft. A Lufthansa spokesperson said the airline was cooperating with local authorities and that all 51 passengers booked on the flight had been allowed back on board.
On Sunday, Belarus claimed a bomb threat had been made against Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius as it was flying through Belarusian airspace. Belarus sent a MiG29 fighter jet to intercept the Boeing 737 aircraft with 129 passengers onboard and forced it to land in Minsk.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary described the interception as “a case of state-sponsored hijacking”, claiming that four KGB agents were onboard the aircraft. They never got back on the flight once it had been cleared to depart Minsk.
Also missing was 25-year-old Raman Pratasevich, a Belarusian blogger who had drawn the ire of President Alexander Lukashenko over his reporting of a popular protest movement against Europe’s longest-serving leader. Belarus added Pratasevich to a terrorist watchlist last year.
Amidst international condemnation of the incident, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas summoned the Belarusian ambassador to Germany to the foreign ministry in Berlin on Monday.
“The previous statements by the Belarusian government for the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk are absurd and not credible,” Heiko said. “We need clarity about what really happened on board and on the ground yesterday. And we need clarity about the well-being of Roman Protasewitsch and his life partner, who must be released immediately.”
The heads of European governments will be meeting on Monday evening to discuss sanctions against Belarus.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.