Disinfo: The Ryanair aircraft was forced to land just like the plane of then-Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2013


In comparison to the Ryanair flight, there have already been cases where a state forced a civilian aircraft to make an emergency landing. In 2013, for example, the plane of then-Bolivian President Evo Morales en route from Moscow had to land in Vienna because France and Portugal unexpectedly denied the plane overflight rights. The reason for this was the suspicion that the American ex-intelligence agent Edward Snowden was on board the presidential plane, whose extradition was demanded by American authorities. However, Snowden was not found on board when the plane was searched.


This is an emerging pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the arrest of a Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Pratasevich.

The cited example of the aircraft landing with Evo Morales did not involve bomb scares or crackdowns on the political opposition. In July 2013, under the Obama administration, Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced to land in Austria, amid U.S. pressure, in a hunt for U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden, who was thought to be aboard.

But unlike the Belarusian plot, which involved fighter jets and bomb threats, the Bolivian flight was brought down by bureaucracy: European nations refused it permission to enter their airspace, Bolivian officials later told reporters, leaving them with no clear route back home after a trip to Moscow. The plane subsequently landed in Austria because it needed to refuel, and Heinz Fischer, Austria’s president at the time, met with Morales at the airport.

According to The Washington Post, some analysts see the arrest of the journalist Pratasevich as part of a more recent trend — what Freedom House, a nongovernmental, nonpartisan advocacy organisation, has dubbed “transnational repression.”

Roman Pratasevich is one of the founders of the Telegram channel NEXTA that had been a key source to disseminating images of state violence during Belarusian protests last year.

The EU condemned Belarusian action against civil plane and the detention of Pratasevich. In a declaration on behalf of the EU on the forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 to Minsk on 23 May 2021, the High Representative called for the immediate release of Mr Pratasevich. This was followed by a European Council statement, in which the EU leaders called for targeted individual and economic sanctions as well as to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by these.

Read similar disinfo cases alleging that forcing down aircraft is common practice among special forces and that NEXTA is the Polish provocative Telegram channel.


  • Reported in: Issue 245
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 24/05/2021
  • Article language(s) German
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Belarus, EU, US, Bolivia
  • Keywords: Edward Snowden, Ryanair Flight 4978, West
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Disinfo: Forcing down aircraft is common practice among special forces

Special forces of many countries divert or force aircraft to land in order to detain people of interest. Not only the Americans are known for this, but Israel, Turkey, Iran...


The case with Ryanair FR4879 is unique, as the aircraft was intercepted by military fighter-jets, armed with air-to-air missiles. At no earlier occasion have national authorities mobilised the military in such a way to detain a wanted criminal.


Disinfo: Pratasevich could tell how the West supported and coordinated protests in Belarus

The detention of the founder of the NEXTA Telegram channel Roman Pratasevich looks like a good-planned operation of Belarusian special forces. Minsk hopes that Pratasevich could tell a lot about how the West supported and coordinated protests in Belarus. It could influence his further fate.

The operation was risky but today in the context of big geopolitical interests all play a game without rules. In this case, the end of Pratasevich story justifies the means.


Recurring disinformation narrative about the West being behind protests in Belarus.

The protests in Belarus erupted to contest the results of the presidential election on 9 August 2020, which were not monitored by independent experts, and are largely considered fraudulent by both international observers and a big part of the Belarusian society. On 19 August 2020, the European Council called Belarusian elections neither free nor fair.

Disinfo: The captain of the Ryanair flight decided to land in Minsk, because it was the nearest airport

According to international rules, Minsk turned out to be the nearest airport, and according to these same international rules, the captain of the flight decided to land in Minsk. It was the decision of the captain of the flight.


Disinformation about the Ryanair flight 4978.

On Sunday, May 23, 2021, the Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was forced to turn back minutes before crossing the Lithuanian border and land in the Belarusian capital. The pretext for landing in Minsk was a false report about the bomb on board. At the moment when the plane changed course, it was closer to Vilnius airport than to Minsk. The plane was forced to land in the Belarusian capital by a Belarusian military aircraft. To land in the Belarusian capital was not the Ryanair pilots' decision.