Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

Brussels, 22 July 2022

The ICAO Council concluded earlier this week that the Government of Belarus has committed an act of unlawful interference in breach of international aviation law concerning the forced landing of Ryanair Flight FR4978 in Minsk on 23 May 2021.

The condemnation was based on a detailed and thorough Fact-finding investigation report prepared by the ICAO Secretariat which included an interview and audio recordings from the Minsk air traffic controller involved in the incident. The report confirms that the bomb threat against Ryanair Flight FR4978 was deliberately false, that senior government officials of Belarus were involved and provided instructions to force the landing in Minsk and that the incident endangered the safety of the flight and its passengers.

The report therefore confirms what the EU had already established – that the Belarusian regime orchestrated the hijacking of a civilian plane for the sole purpose of arresting an opposition journalist, Roman Pratasevich and his friend Sofia Sapega, in a flagrant violation of international air law, as well as a threat to the safety and security of international civil aviation.

On 4 June 2021 the EU and its Member States, together with other international partners, took measures in response to this serious and irresponsible act, banning Belarusian carriers from European airspace and airports. On 21 June 2021, the EU adopted sanctions against the individuals and entities involved in the hijacking of the Ryanair aircraft. A substantial package of sectoral measures was also adopted on 24 June 2021 in this context.

The EU welcomes the fact that the report will be conveyed to all ICAO Member States and that the infractions of the Chicago Convention by Belarus will be reported to the ICAO Assembly during its upcoming 41st Session (27 Sept. – 7 Oct. 2022). The report will also be forwarded to Secretary-General of United Nations for appropriate further action.  

In the meantime, the EU continues its decisive action to support democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms and increasing support to the Belarusian people and civil society. We also deplore the regime’s continuous blatant disrespect of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Belarusian people. The ongoing repression has to stop, and all political prisoners have to be released immediately and unconditionally.

Source – EEAS