In a press release on July 19the UN’s civil aviation agency (ICAO) board has concluded that senior Belarusian government officials gave direct instructions to report false information about a bomb threat to Ryanair flight FR4978 in May of Last year.
On May 23, 2021, Ryanair flight FR4978 landed in Minsk after Belarus sent a military plane to escort the flight while Minsk International Airport’s control tower told pilots there was a bomb on board.
After the plane landed, Belarusian Interior Ministry special forces arrested Belarusian journalist and dissident Roman Pratasevich together with his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.
Pratasevich has since appeared in multiple Belarusian security force propaganda videos, condemning the exiled opposition and confessing guilt. In May this year, Sapega was sentenced to six years in prison and soon after appealed to Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko for a pardon.
Western countries condemned the action and accused Lukashenko of “state-sponsored hijacking” to capture a dissident. As the plane was a civilian airliner going from Athens to Vilnius, many EU countries also pointed out that this decision puts the lives of citizens of several EU countries at risk.
Shortly after the event, the EU, the UK and the WE closed their skies to Belarusian planes and also told their own country’s airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace altogether. Since then, the air navigation services of Belarus have also been subject to financial sanctions from all Western countries.
Belarusian government officials in turn condemned Western countries for acting too recklessly without even waiting for the results of an official ICAO investigation. However, as the ICAO investigation dragged on, it became increasingly clear that the report’s outcome would not turn out in favor of Belarus.
Already on January 17the ICAO published a report indicating that the Belarusian authorities had not followed the appropriate rules to contact the plane, that the bomb threat had been deliberately false (although it was not specified who was behind) and added that she was not satisfied with the information provided by the Belarusian authorities.
In the latest ICAO reportfollowing new information received on the case, senior Belarusian officials are singled out as being behind the false bomb threat and accused of having “committed an act of unlawful interference”.
Representatives of Russia and Belarus expressed strong objections to the ICAO’s decision to name Belarus as the culprit and denounced inaccuracies and non-objective approaches in the report.
Meanwhile, the rest of the board expressed appreciation for ICAO’s efforts to conduct a comprehensive analysis and reiterated that this violated both the Montreal and Chicago conventions.
Of his 41st Session between September 27 and October 7, 2022, the ICAO Assembly will discuss possible breaches by Belarus of the Chicago Convention. In addition, the report was forwarded to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “for consideration and any appropriate action.”
In the end, the West’s “reckless” actions turned out to be well-founded, and the Belarusian authorities probably only tried to delay sanctions on its airspace and aviation industry and appease the event by evoking the need for a full report by ICAO.
The decision of the ICAO causes a new rupture in the relations between Belarus and the UN. However, instead of calming things down, efforts by the Belarusian authorities to press for the report have only led to it being discussed further, and more international condemnation of the reports can be expected. shares of Belarus this year.