When a Ryanair Holdings Plc jet was forced to land in Minsk, 26-year-old Raman Pratasevich, who was arrested by Belarusian authorities, wasn’t the only one who didn’t resume the flight from Athens to Vilnius.
Aside from Pratasevich and his girlfriend, three more passengers stayed in Minsk, two Belarusians and one Greek national, according to a Greek government official with knowledge of the ongoing investigation.
The Greek national, Iason Zisis, spoke to Bloomberg, confirming he was on the flight and said the diversion proved to be handy for him.
“I was flying to Minsk anyway, with an evening connection in Vilnius,” Zisis said on LinkedIn. After the interruption, as passengers lined up to return to the aircraft, “I stood at the back of the queue and I asked to stay, and they allowed me.”
With a PhD in scientific computing from Eindhoven University of Technology, Zisis said he lives in Patras, Southern Greece. He said that he was heading to Minsk to visit his wife, who lives there.
A Greek government official, who asked not to be named, said that the investigation so far hasn’t indicated Zisis’s involvement in the incident. Some of the passengers on board have said they had not realised the forced landing took place to snatch a dissident off the flight until they reached Vilnius.
Zisis says that he finds it inexcusable that journalists were the first to track him and reach him, and not the Greek government. He said that no one had called to confirm his whereabouts and whether he’s okay when he was missing from the list of passengers who landed in Vilnius after the diversion.
The European Union agreed Monday to impose sanctions on Belarus, including banning its airlines from using the airspace and airports of the 27-nation bloc, amid fury over the forced diversion of the passenger jet.
“We won’t tolerate that one can try to play Russian roulette with the lives of innocent civilians,” said EU Council chief Charles Michel, who presided over the EU meeting.