“Deliberately false”: this is how the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) qualifies the bomb threat which forced, on May 23, 2021, Ryanair flight FR4978 connecting Greece to Lithuania, to land in Minsk. The Belarusian authorities then arrested a dissident journalist, Roman Protassevich, and his partner Sofia Sapega who were on board.
Last week, eight months after the events, the ICAO, an agency of the United Nations (UN), whose headquarters are in Montreal, submitted its report to the 193 member countries in which it highlights the gray areas of the explanations Belarusians, without being able to identify those responsible for the diversion of the plane. The report will be examined on Monday, January 31, by the 36 states that sit on its council.
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Belarus, led by Alexander Lukashenko has always explained that it was because of a bomb threat that the plane had been diverted to Minsk. The ICAO report confirms that as the searches on departure and arrival were unsuccessful, “it is considered that the bomb threat was deliberately false”. But the agency “was not able to attribute the commission of this act of unlawful interference to an individual or to a State”.
However, the document that dissects this day minute by minute shows that Belarus hid certain information crucial to the investigation and was unable to explain certain inconsistencies.
Regarding the email containing the bomb threat, the agency notes that the timetables provided by the Belarusian authorities are incorrect. The exchanges, reported by the ICAO, between the Minsk control tower and the pilots of the plane show the incomprehension of the crew and their doubt as to the respect of the procedures in front of the evasive answers of the Belarusian airport.
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The report also states that despite the alleged presence of explosives in the aircraft, it took thirty minutes to disembark the passengers and the pilot was allowed to remain on board. And then the search for the alleged bomb inside the plane was superficial and lasted only eighteen minutes.
“This report highlights all the inconsistencies in the Belarusian version of the facts,” said the French foreign ministry. “The result is that the Belarusian regime orchestrated the hijacking of a civilian plane for the sole purpose of arresting an opposition journalist, Roman Protassevich. »
US justice last week indicted Belarusian government officials accused of this rerouting, an unprecedented judicial decision in the midst of tension between the United States and Russia, an ally of Belarus.
Last June, the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada coordinated to put pressure on President Lukashenko with individual sanctions and economic sanctions.
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