Belarus claims it forced Ryanair plane to land because of Hamas threat

MINSK, Belarus — A senior Belarus transportation official says that the country had received a bomb threat claiming to be from Hamas ahead of the diversion of a Ryanair passenger flight carrying a dissident, a diversion that drew widespread excoriation from Europe and the United States.

Artem Sikorsky, the head of the aviation department at the transportation and communications ministry, reads out a letter to journalists that says: “We, the soldiers of Hamas, demand that Israel ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. We demand that the European Union renounces its support for Israel in this war… A bomb is planted on this flight. If you do not fulfill our demands, the bomb will explode over Vilnius on May 23.”

Critics have charged that the forced landing of the Ryanair flight to arrest a dissident on board amounted to “piracy,” and US and European Union officials are reportedly mulling steps to punish Belarus’s authoritarian regime for the incident.

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