INTERNATIONAL outrage has erupted after the government of Belarus reportedly intercepted a Ryanair flight and forced it to land on their soil in order to arrest a journalist.

Belta, the state-owned news agency in Belarus, reported that the controversial Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, has personally ordered the flight to land in Minsk following reports of a bomb scare.

The Belarusian Presidency press service claimed on Telegram that a MiG-29 fighter jet had been sent by the military to intercept the aircraft.

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The opposition Nexta channel said on Telegram that no bomb had been found after the landed plane was searched, but that their former editor, Raman Pratasevich, had been detained.

Pratasevich had been flying from Athens in Greece to Vilnius in Lithuania when the plane he was on was diverted.

Late last year, the Belarusian security services (KGB) placed Pratasevich on the list of "individuals involved in terrorist activities".

The 26-year-old journalist had worked with Nexta, a media platform that played a leading role in the wave of protests in Belarus against Lukashenko’s re-election.

This arrest was immediately condemned by Belarusian opposition leader in exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

On Twitter, she said the regime had "forced" the plane to Minsk, and Pratasevich now "faces the death penalty in Belarus".

The opposition politician lost out to Lukashenko in elections held in 2020 and widely denounced as rigged. Since the August vote, the strongman politician’s government has cracked down on dissenting voices.

Franak Viacorka, one of Tsikhanouskaya’s senior advisers, claimed Lukashenko had “seized a plane [and] put passengers in danger in order to repress an opponent”.

He went on: “Reasons for such actions? Lukashenko's media report the plane was landed because of the conflict between a crew member and a passenger. Before that, they [said] there was a bomb.

“Raman Pratasevich noticed the surveillance at the airport of Athens. In his messages, he wrote that a man next to him in line at the border control tried to take pictures of his documents and then just left.”

Pratasevich, who had fled the country, now faces charges that could carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Responding to Viacorka’s tweets, SNP MP John Nicolson wrote: “This is the action of a rogue state. There must be serious repercussions for the Lukashenko regime.”

Fellow MP Stewart McDonald said the reported actions of the Belarusian government were “outrageous”.

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, said that "forcing an aircraft to land to silence opposition voices is an attack on democracy”.

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda said it was an “unprecedented event” and that the Belarusian “regime is behind the abhorrent action”.

Germany demanded an "immediate explanation" from Belarus, while Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said the country’s actions were "contrary to international law".

Months of protests arose after last August’s presidential election that official results said gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office.

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Police cracked down on the protests harshly, detaining some 30,000 people and beating many.

Although protests died down during the winter, Belarus has continued to take action against the opposition and independent news media.

On May 18, 11 staff members of the news website were detained by police.

Belarusian authorities maintained that violated media laws by publishing content on behalf of BYSOL, a foundation that helps victims of political repression. They said the foundation lacked proper state registration.