MINSK, May 26. /TASS/. Ryanair's passenger plane was denied permission to land in Vilnius, Warsaw, Lvov and Kiev after a bomb threat message, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in parliament at a meeting with legislators, Constitutional Commission members and representatives of government agencies on Wednesday.
"Why did the crew's commander make a decision to land in Minsk at a time when Vilnius was a mere 70 kilometers away?" the daily "SB. Belarus Segodnya" quotes Lukashenko as saying. "Why did nobody agree to let the plane land when we said there had been threats of a bomb planted on board? It was rejected by all - its final destination Vilnius, Warsaw, Lvov and Kiev. How come all those who are now making such a fuss refused to accommodate the plane? Were they afraid of responsibility? Or was there somebody very eager to see the plane land in Minsk?"
Bomb threats against the Ryanair plane were sent to Athens, Vilnius and Minsk airports simultaneously, Lukashenko told.
"The message was sent to the airports of Athens, Vilnius and Minsk simultaneously," he said. "We have conveyed this information to the pilots and we had to make it public."
On May 23, a Vilnius-bound passenger plane of the Irish low-cost airline Ryanair that left Greece made an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport following a reported threat that there was an explosive device on board. A MiG-29 fighter was scrambled to escort the airliner. After landing, specialists searched the plane but found no bomb.
Minsk later said that among the plane's passengers was Roman Protasevich, a co-founder of the Telegram channel Nexta, outlawed in Belarus as extremist. He was detained by law enforcement agents. In the evening of the same day the plane left Minsk to land in Vilnius.
On Monday, the EU leaders made a decision to prohibit Belarusian air carriers from flying to European airports and through the EU airspace and advised the European air carriers to avoid entering Belarusian airspace. Also, the EU summit hurried to introduce new sanctions on Belarus, demanded Protasevich's release and urged the International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate the incident. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the final news conference the incident was a "hijacking" and an "attack on the European Union's democracy and sovereignty".