The UN’s civil aviation agency (ICAO) declared this week that it had achieved a report about the investigation into Belarus’s diversion of the Ryanair Flight 4978 in May last year.
Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and his Russian friend, Sofia Sapega, were detained in May 2021 when Belarus scrambled a military jet to escort their Athens-to-Vilnius Ryanair flight to land in Minsk. Many countries condemned the action ordered by Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko as a “state hijacking” of a passenger aircraft, and this prompted harsh sanctions from Western countries.
Belarusian authorities had claimed they acted because of a bomb threat that was confirmed to be wrong and has condemned the sanctions, even filing a statement to the ICAO requesting the agency to review the sanctions as illegal.
The report, which was made available to all the ICAO’s 193 member states on January 17, said that Belarus authorities did not follow the regulations to properly contact Ireland-based Ryanair about the alleged bomb threat and did not help the crew to talk to their base, according to Reuters.
- The Ryanair pilot conformed to land in Minsk after a Belarus air traffic controller had announced“code red”, which indicates a credible threat to the aircraft necessitating a quick landing. However, the report found it improbable that Ryanair would have agreed to declare “code red” during the circumstances. Instead, the statement concluded that the bomb danger was “deliberately false”, but no person or state was identified as responsible for the hoax.
According to a pilot witness, the search for the alleged bomb on the ground was cursory and took just 18 minutes to complete. Meanwhile, emergency services were told to stand down until the search was over and before the luggage hold had been opened for checks. Again, despite the supposed threat, disembarking passengers took 30 minutes and the pilot was permitted to stay on board.
Rather, it told it was not provided with a good rationale as to why records had not been preserved considering that local criminal and other investigations were underway. Secondly, Belarus declined to provide access to the Ryanair flight’s control, to the call records from officials, or footage from well-placed airport cameras. Thirdly, the team was not provided a copy of the email with the bomb threat or email
server logs. Instead, it had to use data from a Switzerland-registered email provider, which showed that the email was sent after the jet had begun its descent towards Minsk. Belarus claimed it had received the email 30 minutes earlier; however, the Belarusian authorities could only provide a screenshot as a warranty.
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Belarusian Transport and Communications Ministry
The ICAO statement is the first completed international investigation in the diversion of the Ryanair flight. Belarus Director of the Aviation Department of the Belarusian Transport and Communications Ministry Artyom Sikorsky spoke Belarusian state news agency BelTA that “together with experts, we are preparing to get the facts, which have been offered by Belarus and which have been offered not completely correctly, clarified by 31 January when ICAO convenes for the session.
We expect that ICAO will consider Belarus’ complaint against the illegal actions of several European countries that had imposed sanctions against the civil aviation of our country.”
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