Ryanair Passenger Posts Belarus Arrest on Instagram: 'He Knew It Was the End'

A series of Instagram stories posted by a traveler onboard the Ryanair flight forcibly diverted to Belarus appeared to document the incident, including the widely-criticized arrest of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich.

Instagram user @raselle_gr, whose full name does not appear on her page, posted more than 20 videos and photos of the ordeal on Instagram. One ominous early video looking out of a plane window—presumably upon landing in Minsk—shows a group of people dressed in various uniforms approaching the aircraft, with the caption "@ryanair accepts to be hijacked in Belarus air space."

At the end of the series, a photo of a group of officials in orange vests—four of which stood in a row—was captioned with: "Protasevic said to flight attendant: don't do this. They will kill me, i am refugee. He answered: we must, we have no choice, its in Ryanair legal agreements."

The 26-year-old journalist and activist had once worked for Telegram channel NEXTA, which broadcast news from mass protests that followed Belarus' election in August 2020. Protasevich, who currently works for Telegram channel Belamova, had been based in Lithuania.

#Belarus: insta-stories by one of the passengers on board #FR4978.

Protasevich apparently begged the @Ryanair crew not to hand him over. They told him "we have no choice, it's in Ryanair legal agreements" pic.twitter.com/AfRt2uYSHv

— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) May 23, 2021

The Instagram story included a photo of a masked traveler—possibly Protasevich—captioned "He knew it was the end @ryanair just gave him to them."

In some of the videos, multiple mask-clad passengers can be seen waiting outside the aircraft with their bags as sniffer dogs make their way through various pieces of luggage. Other shots showed groups of officials in bright orange vests gathered near the plane.

In one shot filmed looking out of one side of the plane, three uniformed men stood far apart facing towards the aircraft, as if guarding it.

The user posted about the passengers going through "stress," at one point writing "@ryanair I want to see who will be responsible for this chaos." In a photo apparently taken inside an airport—the location of which is unspecified—the traveler wrote "@ryanair We were treated as prisoners in Minsk."

Multiple recent posts by the Instagram user show her vacationing in Greece. The diverted aircraft had departed from capital Athens and was en route to Lithuania's Vilnius.

According to the European Humanities University in Vilnius, Russian student Sofia Sapega was also detained as she was "returning with her boyfriend from vacation" on board the Ryanair flight. Agence France-Presse reported Sapega to be Protasevich's girlfriend.

The Ryanair flight's forced landing drew international condemnation and outrage, particularly from European officials. Michael O'Leary, the Irish airline's CEO, said the company believes KGB agents were present on the flight.

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said "five or six" passengers disembarked the aircraft as it was grounded but only one was arrested, which suggests "the others were secret service people."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the Commission "will discuss action to take" on Monday.

Ryanair plane diverted to Belarus lands inLithuania
A photo taken on May 23, 2021 shows a Boeing 737-8AS Ryanair passenger plane (flight FR4978, SP-RSM) from Athens, Greece, that was intercepted and diverted to Minsk on the same day by Belarus authorities, landing at Lithuania's Vilnius International Airport, its initial destination. PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP via Getty Images