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Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The forced landing of a Ryanair passenger airplane by Belarusian officials was “a state-sponsored hijacking" meant to target a journalist and dissident on board, Michael O’Leary, the airline's CEO, told Politico.

Why it matters: The diversion of the plane was an attempt by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko to "remove" journalist Roman Protasevich, a prominent opposition figure living in exile, O'Leary said.

  • Lukashenko, known as "Europe's last dictator, has cracked down on mass protests and dissent in the wake of a fraudulent election last year.
  • How European Union leaders respond to the hijacking, which O'Leary said involved Belarus KGB agents, will be a key test for the bloc's foreign policy.

Catch up quick: The plane was in Belarusian airspace headed to Lithuania when pilots were told to land in Minsk because of “a potential security threat on board," per a Ryanair statement.

  • Protasevich, who reportedly told other passengers he was facing the death penalty, was arrested during the stop. No bomb was found on board.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top EU officials have demanded Protasevich's immediate release.

What he's saying: “It was clear that the intent of the Belarusian authorities was to remove a journalist and his traveling companion. We believe some KGB agents were offloaded from the aircraft as well,” O'Leary told Politico.

  • “This is a case of state-sponsored hijacking, state-sponsored piracy. Our crew did a phenomenal job to get that aircraft and almost all the passengers out of Minsk after six hours.”
  • “It was extremely frightening for our crew and passengers. They were held under armed guard and had their bags searched.”

Go deeper: Global outcry as Belarus accused of "hijacking" plane to detain activist

Go deeper

Aug 14, 2021 - World

Russian plane sent to fight Turkey's wildfires crashes, 8 dead

Photo: Turkish Ministry of Agriculture And Forestry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A Russian plane that was sent to Turkey to fight the wildfires crashed Saturday, killing all eight people on board, state news agency TASS reports.

What they're saying: "Five Russian military crew members and three citizens of the Republic of Turkey who were on board the Russian Be-200 plane crashed in the Republic of Turkey," the Russian defense ministry said, per TASS.

FAA clears more planes after 5G fears

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it had approved nearly 80% of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports with new 5G services after fears of signal interference limited 5G rollout.

Why it matters: The FAA approvals will help provide more certainty after the agency raised fears that 5G signals could reduce the accuracy of certain equipment, known as radio altimeters, that helps planes land and take off in inclement weather.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton stock tanks on report of production halt

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Peloton stock fell by as much as 25% on Thursday, following a CNBC report that the connected fitness company will temporarily halt production on its bikes and treadmills.

Why it matters: Peloton is viewed by many as a proxy for consumer behavior in the pandemic era, as its popularity surged when gyms closed and people wanted to exercise at home.