A Ryanair flight heading towards Lithuania from Greece carrying Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian opposition journalist on board, was forced to land in Minsk on Sunday by a Belarusian fighter plane.
The EU and the US compared this coerced diversion of commercial flight as a plane hijack, and the EU has banned all the flights with Belarus.
As the civilian jetliner was travelling over Belarus, located at the heart of Europe, the Belarusian authorities forced it to land in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. They arrested Roman Protasevich; Sophia Sapega, a 23-year-old student of Lithuania's Vilnius University who was travelling with him, was also detained by police at Minsk.
Who is Roman Protasevich, and why is he detained
Protasevich is a 26 years old journalist, the editor and co-founder of the alternative news platform Nexta, which means "someone" in Belarusian.
The office of Nexta is situated in Poland to avoid Belarusian government hindrances, and the news is published through telegram, a cloud-based instant messaging software with encrypted message and video calling facilities.
Nexta, along with its sister outlet Nexta-live has two million subscribers.
Roman Protasevich studied Journalism at the Institution of Belarus State University and begin his activism in his teen years. He was regarded as a "2017-2018 Vaclav Havel Fellow", which offers training to young European and Russian journalists.
The disputed election of President Alexander Lukashenko generated mass anti-government protests in Belarus last year. Lukashenko was suspected of being involved in the disappearance of prominent figures of the opposition party. Lukashenko is known for arresting and exiling opposition leaders.
Alexander Lukashenko attempted to create a falsified story by saying he coerced the flight to stop as a response to a bomb threat from Palestinian group Hamas. However, a spokesperson from Hamas denied having any connection with the case.
Brought the mass protest to light
Despite the internet connection being often blocked in Belarus, Roman managed to provide crucial information, videos and live-streaming of the mass protests in Belarus, which helped the demonstrators be informed about the movement. Otherwise, other news portals under tight government control would not have the ability to publish the authentic scenario.
Hence, Roman Protasevich has been a target of Belarusian authority. He and another founder of Nexta have been on the list of individuals involved in "terrorist activity". Later on, he fled and sought political asylum in Poland.
Roman Protasevich has also covered the news of the conflict in Ukraine's eastern region in 2017 by working as a freelance journalist and photographer, reported radio free Europe pressroom in 2018.
Belarusian authority posted a video
Belarusian authority uploaded a video of Roman Protasevich on Twitter after his detention. Roman said that he is physically fit, and the police are interrogating him by following the law. He also confessed to organising mass protests in Belarus.
However, the supporters of Protasevich, did not buy this view and noticed the clear tension in his face.
One of the Opposition Leader tweeted: "This is how Raman [Roman Protasevich] looks under physical and moral pressure. I demand the immediate release of Raman and the political prisoners".
Belarus has been financially sanctioned since 2004 after the disappearance of two vital leaders of the opposition party to control the authoritarian government of Belarus. But, President Alexander Lukashenka pays no heed to that. EU leaders decided to ban Belarusian airlines and urged EU flights to avoid travelling over Belarusian airspace at a meeting in Brussels, held on Monday. This decision would strike a massive financial blow to Belarus.