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Monday 24 May 2021

Do you trust your airline to tell you the truth?

Public relations can be a tricky business, particularly when you spin a press release and get caught out. 

That happened today to budget airline Ryanair, which released a press release that omitted nearly all of the most important facts surrounding a major story. 

The tale concerns a Ryanair flight from Athens bound for Vilnius in Lithuania withy 170 people on board. The flight was was forcibly diverted to Minsk in Belarus yesterday after flying over Belarusian air space.

Once it landed, Belarus authorities removed and placed under arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who, media reports suggest, could now face the death penalty in that country.

The plane was diverted after Belarus air traffic authorities alerted the pilot to a "bomb threat". 

No bomb was found but Protasevich - a noted critic of the Belarus regime - was detained after Ryanair flight FR4978 was pulled from its route - accompanied by a Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet - and ordered to land n Minsk. 

The flight resumed after a delay of seven hours in Minsk.

Ryanair released the press release below; completely omitting the fact that a passenger was ordered off the plane - and that four Russian passengers apparently - and mysteriously - left the flight of their own accord. 

Ryanair did say "the flight crew were “notified by Belarus [air traffic control] of a potential security threat on board” and instructed to divert to Minsk. 

 “Nothing untoward was found and authorities cleared the aircraft to depart together with passengers and crew after approximately seven hours on the ground in Minsk,” the company stated. 

Ryanair said it has “notified the relevant national and European safety and security agencies”.

The Belarus Government, led by authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko, has not commented on the incident but the affair has caused global condemnation of Belarus. 

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