The UN aviation agency on Tuesday (July 19th) for the first time accused senior Belarusian officials of a hoax last year that grounded a Ryanair Holdings PLC flight and led to the arrest of a dissident journalist.
The plane was en route from Athens to Vilnius in May 2021 when Belarusian controllers ordered it to land in Minsk, citing a bomb threat. Once on the ground, Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested along with his then-girlfriend.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, which previously said it did not know who was behind the hoax, condemned Minsk for “committing an act of unlawful interference” which violated aviation rules.
“The ICAO Council has acknowledged that the bomb threat against (the flight) … was deliberately false and endangered its safety, and further that the threat was communicated to the flight crew on the instructions senior Belarusian government officials,” he said in a statement. , citing new information.
The representative of Russia, he added, strongly opposed the conclusion. Western nations have imposed sanctions on Minsk for supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Belarusian foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ICAO statement.
Minsk previously said it acted lawfully and in accordance with all international standards, and accused the West of using the episode to try to undermine President Alexander Lukashenko.
Protasevich, a former editor of a major opposition media outlet, renounced his political activism and was released from prison and placed under house arrest. The opposition in Belarus believe his retraction was forced.