A decision by authorities in Belarus to force a Ryanair jet to land in Minsk on Sunday and detain a dissident journalist was a "state-sponsored hijacking", Ryanair group chief executive Michael O'Leary said today.

"This was a case of state-sponsored hijacking - state-sponsored piracy," Michael O'Leary told Newstalk radio.

"It appears the intent of the authorities was to remove a journalist and his travelling companion. We believe there were some KGB (State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus) agents offloaded at the airport as well," Michael O'Leary said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has described the forced landing of a Ryanair plane as state-sponsored "aviation piracy".

Michael O'Leary also said that the passengers and crew on the diverted plane were frightened, and were held under armed guard.

"I think it was very frightening for the crew, for the passengers who were held under armed guard, had their bags searched, when it was clear it appears that the intent was to remove a journalist and his travelling companion," he added.

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The Ryanair CEO said his airline would take guidance from European authorities on flying in Belarusian airspace.

But he said that Ryanair had few flights crossing Belarus, and it would be a "very minor adjustment" to fly over Poland instead.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Minister Coveney said the EU must give a "very clear response" to the incident.

European leaders will have an opportunity to make "clear decisions" at a council meeting today, he said, adding that the regime in Belarus has "no democratic legitimacy" and is "behaving as a dictatorship".

"If there's indecision or weakness shown by the EU here, it'll reinforce in the minds of the decision makers in Belarus that they've done the right thing here. So I think the response has to be clear, tough and needs to happen quickly."

The plane was on its way from Greece to Lithuania when the pilot was ordered to land in Minsk so authorities there could arrest an opposition activist. Roman Protasevich has spoken out against President Alexander Lukashenko and his government.

The plane's crew were told that a bomb was on board and they were ordered to land while a Belarusian warplane escorted them down.

"If there's indecision or weakness shown by the EU here, it'll reinforce in the minds of the decision makers in Belarus that they've done the right thing here. So I think the response has to be clear, tough and needs to happen quickly."

The plane was on its way from Greece to Lithuania when the pilot was ordered to land in Minsk so authorities there could arrest an opposition activist. Roman Protasevich has spoken out against President Alexander Lukashenko and his government.

The plane's crew were told that a bomb was on board and they were ordered to land while a Belarusian warplane escorted them down.

Mr Coveney said he does not know for certain if reports that KGB officials were on the Ryanair plane are true.

He said that when the plane landed, five or six people did not re-board the plane when it took off again.

"But only one or two people were actually arrested", he said.

"So that certainly would suggest that a number of other people who left the plane were secret service. We don't know from what country, but clearly linked to the Belarussian regime," he added.