Diane Abbott 'amazed that Belarus thought it could get away with plane-jacking'

24 May 2021, 22:11

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

After a Ryanair flight was forced to land in Belarus to allow an opposition activist to be arrested Labour MP Diane Abbott said she was "amazed" the government thought they would get away with it.

Speaking on LBC's Cross Question debate show the Labour MP said she thought President Putin would be the one to rein them in.

"If they will plane-jack out of the sky, what won't they do?" she asked.

Read more: Government asks airlines to avoid flights over Belarus after journalist's arrest

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said the incident was a "state-sponsored hijacking" and claimed agents from Russia's KGB were on board the flight.

"It was clear it appears that the intent of the Russian authorities was to remove a journalist and his travelling companion. We believe there was also some KGB agents offloaded from the aircraft as well," he said.

Read more: Arrested Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich appears in 'confession' video

Roman Protasevich was on board a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius when it was forced to change course to head for Minsk after a bomb scare, escorted by a MiG fighter jet.

He was arrested and in a video released by Belarusian authorities on Monday evening appeared to admit he was involved in organising mass protests in Minsk last year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps instructed the Civil Aviation Authority to request British airlines avoid Belarusian air space "to keep passengers safe". He also suspended the operating permit for Belavia, the country's state-owned airline.