U.S. and Poland launch investigations into Ryanair incident
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Poland have launched their own investigations into the emergency landing of the Ryanair plane in Minsk, which lead to an arrest of a well-known Belarusian oppositionist Roman Protasevich, said the head of the Criminal Police of Lithuania Rolandas Kiškis at a press conference in Vilnius.
"Along with the investigation launched in the Polish Republic, we have information from our colleagues from the United States that the FBI has launched its own investigation. We are also working intensively with our Irish colleagues, with our colleagues from Greece. It do it every day, seven days a week," Kiškis told reporters. He said Ryanair crew members were interviewed, as well as "about 90% of all passengers on the plane."
Lithuanian Deputy Prosecutor General Gintas Ivanauskas said that the plane is still at Vilnius airport, as all the planned actions are not finished. After the procedures are finished, the plane will be able to leave Lithuania. An additional inspection of the airliner is planned in the coming days.
According to Rolandas Kiškis, a joint investigative team has been set up together with the Polish prosecutor's office. In Poland, a pre-trial investigation is underway because the Ryanair plane is registered on its territory, and the FBI is likely to launch an investigation because it had information that there were U.S. citizens among the passengers, Kiškis said.
The head of the Lithuanian criminal police also confirmed that Vilnius airport had received a letter stating there was a on board the plane, but this information was not confirmed. "The letter was received when - we will not respond, we check and evaluate this information," said Kiškis.
The incident with the Ryanair plane, which was flying from Athens to Vilnius, occurred on the afternoon of May 23. The Minsk airport authorities claim the airliner requested a landing because of a bomb report. The airline said that the crew received information about an explosive device on board from the Belarusian air traffic controllers, who gave instructions to land the plane in Minsk. A MiG-29 fighter aircraft of the Belarusian Air Force was sent to escort the passenger plane.
The Ryanair plane was at the Minsk airport for more than five hours, but during this time no dangerous objects were found on board. However, the Belarusian security forces removed Roman Protasevich, the former editor-in-chief of the Telegram channel Nexta, from the flight. Nexta actively covered rallies in Belarus after the presidential elections, which were held last August. Three criminal cases related to mass riots have been opened against the journalist in Belarus.