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ICAO Releases Fact-Finding Report On Ryanair Plane Hijacking By Lukashenka In Minsk

ICAO Releases Fact-Finding Report On Ryanair Plane Hijacking By Lukashenka In Minsk

Six anonymous letters were sent.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has prepared a fact finding report on the emergency landing of a Ryanair aircraft in Minsk, on board of which were the former editor-in-chief of the NEXTA Telegram channel Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega. The document was at the disposal of Novaya Gazeta.

In addition to technical details, the report states that there is inconsistency in the testimony of the Belarusian authorities about the time of receipt of the anonymous letter. It spoke about the possible mining of the aircraft, which led to an emergency landing in the capital of Belarus.

An e-mail about the bomb threat was received at the Minsk airport at 12:56:45 (when the plane was already preparing for an emergency landing). However, Belarus submitted to ICAO a screenshot of the letter with a different time of receipt - 12:25. The ICAO Fact Finding Investigation Team separately notes that Minsk only sent them a screenshot of the letter, so it was impossible to verify its metadata.

In total, it follows from the document, the attackers sent six letters with the same threats - to the airports of Vilnius, Minsk, Sofia, Bucharest, Kyiv, and Athens. The anonymous email didn’t reach the latter two. At the same time, the letter was discovered by the Vilnius airport crew only the next day - on Monday, since the mail was not checked on weekends.

The Belarusian dispatcher, according to the report, informed the crew that the email was sent to several airports around 12:30 Minsk time. However, how he learned about this remains unknown, because the first letter about the threat arrived at Vilnius airport at 12:25 (to Sofia and Bucharest at 12:27 and 12:28, respectively).

The report also refers to several cases of non-compliance by the Belarusian authorities with standard procedures. So, for example, safety rules require that both passengers and crew leave the aircraft in the event of a bomb threat. However, according to written and oral statements by the Ryanair crew, after landing, ground personnel at the Minsk airport told them that one of the crew members should remain on board while the aircraft was searched.

According to them, airport employees said that there are rules for the air harbor, and the crew must do what its employees say. At the same time, the Minsk airport dispatcher said that the decision to leave one crew member on board was made by the crew. In addition, the protocol for reporting the "RED" code was also violated.

On May 23, a Ryanair Athens-Vilnius plane made an emergency landing at the Minsk airport due to reports of “mining” at the request of Belarusian air dispatchers, and accompanied by a MiG-29 fighter. Raman Pratasevich, co-founder of the NEXTA Telegram channel, and his girlfriend, Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, were on board. Both were detained and sent to a pre-trial detention center by the Belarusian security forces.

Now the couple is under house arrest and awaiting trial in a case related to mass protests in Belarus in 2020 and the disclosure of personal data of security officials. They were released from the pre-trial detention center after Pratasevich gave an interview to Belarusian state TV.

Recently, an air dispatcher who worked with a Ryanair board said that the plane's landing was a special operation of the Belarusian special services. Due to the incident with the plane, Western countries banned European carriers from building routes through Belarus, and restricted the flights of Belarusian airlines.