Belarus Improperly Diverted Passenger Flight, Endangered Lives, International Civil Aviation Organization Senior Official Tells Security Council
The Government of Belarus’ deliberate diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978 under the false pretext of a bomb threat is an act of unlawful interference that deliberately endangered the safety and security of the flight and the lives of those on board, Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), told the Security Council today, citing the report of the agency and the work of its fact-finding investigation team.
He recounted that on 23 May 2021, the flight traveling from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, was diverted over Belarus airspace and landed at Minsk Airport, following information provided by the Belarusian air traffic controller of a bomb threat onboard the aircraft. On 27 May 2021, the ICAO Council decided to undertake a fact-finding investigation under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
Noting the support and cooperation of many States connected to the event, he said the investigation established that Belarus’ actions amounted to the use of civil aviation for a purpose inconsistent with the aims of the Chicago Convention and in contravention of its article 4 on the misuse of civil aviation. The ICAO Assembly, during its forty-first session, held from 27 September to 7 October, adopted Resolution A411, condemning the actions of the Government of Belarus.
In the ensuing debate, Council members also condemned Belarus’ violation of international aviation law, while others warned that the serious precedent set by that action undermined the fundamental trust between pilots and air traffic controllers and jeopardizes the integrity of international civil aviation. Speakers also drew attention to the Government’s repression of civil society and human rights violations, noting that the purpose of the dangerous operation was to arrest opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega.
France’s representative stressed that Belarus’ irresponsible act is “nothing less than an act of air piracy” and is one of numerous examples of the Belarusian regime’s brutal repression of those who oppose it. He welcomed the courage of Belarusian citizens against the Lukashenko regime and called on that regime to drop any investigations and prosecutions of Mr. Protasevich and Ms. Sapega, as well as political prisoners held in Belarus, affirming France’s support for the Belarusian people in their democratic aspirations.
Brazil’s representative voiced concern about indications of Belarus’ violations of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation. The report of the fact-finding investigation team should be seen as a call to all States to avoid such practices in the future, he stressed. He questioned whether the Security Council is the most appropriate forum to discuss the matter and suggested that the report be submitted to a more competent organ for the purpose — the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHCR).
China’s representative, in a similar vein, questioned whether it is appropriate that a small number of Council members convened today’s debate to discuss the incident. Joining other delegations, he emphasized that the matter should be handled pursuant to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, based on facts and evidence, and without geopolitical considerations, selectivity or double standards.
The representative of the Russian Federation voiced “great doubts about ICAO’s impartiality”, stressing that there was no objective and open investigation of the situation. Belarus was transparent during the investigation, he emphasized, pointing out that the “Western countries” didn’t wait for the outcome and decided to ban flights over Belarus, ban Belarusian air carriers from using European Union airspace and introduced unlawful restrictions against Minsk.
Belarus’ representative concurred, stressing that the ICAO report was hastily written, biased, and riddled with errors and inaccuracies. Further, it was based on incomplete information due to a lack of international cooperation, he said, adding that the information from the real air traffic controller on the Belarus side was not considered. His country is “a rule of law State, contrary to some others”, he stressed, warning that sanctions against Belarus, which manufactures a third of the world’s potash fertilizers, will affect global supplies of such fertilizers, and lead to additional deaths by starvation of tens of millions of people.
Other non-Council members also took the floor, with Greece’s representative noting that 11 of its citizens were among the passengers on the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius. Greece from the outset has supported the adoption of tough measures against Belarus to send a strong message that such behaviour cannot be tolerated. This incident cannot go without consequences, she said, emphasizing that violations of the Montreal Convention not only endanger civil aviation, but also breaches the ICAO Convention and its regulatory framework.
Germany’s representative pointed to the Belarus authorities’ relentless campaign of persecution and intimidation to eradicate a formerly vibrant civil society and political opposition. Her country has thus expanded its support programmes for civil society in Belarus to support, among others, students, independent media and victims of State violence. She urged the Government of Belarus to immediately stop its support for the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine, free all political prisoners and unconditionally end its campaign of domestic repression.
Also speaking were representatives of Albania, United Kingdom, United States, India, Ireland, Norway, Kenya, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Gabon, Lithuania, Poland and Latvia (also on behalf of Estonia and the Czech Republic).
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:46 a.m.
SALVATORE SCIACCHITANO, President of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), said that the agency, as mandated by the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, works with its 193 Member States and the civil aviation industry, to adopt standards and recommended practices, and foster consensus on policies and global plans to enhance safety, security and sustainability of international aviation. Outlining the events related to Belarus’ forced landing of the Ryanair flight and how ICAO addressed the issue, he recounted that on 23 May 2021, Ryanair Flight 4978 traveling from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, was diverted over Belarus airspace and landed at Minsk Airport, following information provided by the Belarusian air traffic controller of a bomb threat onboard the aircraft. The event immediately raised doubts and concerns among several ICAO Member States who called for the agency’s action, particularly as two passengers were detained after landing in Minsk.
He recounted that on 27 May 2021, the ICAO Council decided to undertake a fact-finding investigation under article 55-e of the Chicago Convention, which notes that the Council may investigate, at the request of any contracting State, any situation which may appear to present avoidable obstacles to the development of international air navigation; and, after such investigation, issue such reports as its discretion. The Council requested the ICAO Secretariat to prepare a report that would present the available facts and relevant legal instruments and identify any gaps to safeguard international civil aviation and called upon States to collaborate with the investigation, he recalled. That investigation does not fall within the scope of the Chicago Convention’s Annex 13 — Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, which are under State responsibility, in case of an aircraft accident or incident, he pointed out. Pursuant to the Council’s foregoing decision, on 3 Jun 2021 the Secretary-General instituted a fact-finding investigation team composed of seven staff members specialized in air traffic control, operational safety, international air law and aviation security.
Noting the support and cooperation of many States connected to the event, he said the investigation established that, after entering Belarusian airspace, the pilots were informed by the Minsk Area Control Centre’s controller of a bomb threat on board, and that that the device would explode over Vilnius. The pilots were invited to divert to land in Minsk and deliberately left with no other option, and despite their multiple requests to be put in contact with their operations centre to coordinate a decision, no attempt was made by the Minsk Area Control Centre to do so. Citing other details, he said the investigation team could not verify that Belarus received the threat email at 09:25 UTC that allegedly triggered the actions by its authorities, as they did not provide logs of the email server nor the email files in their original format including their metadata, citing their erasure in accordance with their data retention policy. Moreover, no cellular phone records of the personnel involved, documenting the time and duration of the calls and person or entity contacted were made available by Belarus.
He recalled that due to gaps and missing information, the report, which was first presented to the ICAO Council in January 2022, was not able to identify responsibilities at that stage, and in view of new developments made public by two States around the same period, the Council decided that the investigation should continue. Subsequently, with the assistance of United States authorities, the investigation team gained access to interview the controller whose testimony materially contradicts the information and materials provided by the authorities of Belarus about the events of 23 May 2021. The additional information and materials led to the conclusion that Belarus senior officials orchestrated the deliberate diversion of the flight under the false pretext of a bomb threat as presented in the final report of the investigation team, which was considered by the ICAO Council on 18 July. The actions of the State of Belarus amounted to the use of civil aviation for a purpose inconsistent with the aims of the Chicago Convention, which is a contravention of its article 4.
As such, the Council decided that the said actions of the Government of Belarus be reported to the ICAO Assembly and that the final report of the investigation team be forwarded to the Secretary-General for information and any appropriate further action, he said. The report was duly forwarded to him on 12 August, he said, adding that during its forty-first session, held from 27 September to 7 October, the ICAO Assembly acknowledged that there was an infraction of the Chicago Convention by Minsk and adopted Resolution A41‑1, condemning the actions of the Government of Belarus in committing an act of unlawful interference that deliberately endangered the safety and security of Ryanair Flight FR4978 and the lives of those on board.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) recalling the ICAO investigation and the “deliberately false” bomb threat, underlined that pre-departure searches of the aircraft, which took place in Athens, Greece, did not detect any such threat. Even in the event of such a risk, Poland or the Baltic States — and not Minsk — would have been the closest airport to land in. However, the pilot was given no choice but to land the aircraft in Minsk, he said, adding that the “false alarm” constituted a “State-sponsored hijacking”, and a premeditated breach of aviation rules, in contravention of treaties including the 1944 Chicago Convention, to which Belarus is a party. It is an act of unlawful interference by a State that has a well-documented policy of human rights violations, he continued, recalling a report presented at the Third Committee last week by Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, which outlined Belarusian authorities’ infringements of human rights, including the right to expression. Condemning the complicity of Belarus in the Russian aggression in Ukraine, he said it is against international law and the will of the people of Belarus, and expressed concern about the worrying creation of a new joint military force by Belarus and the Russian Federation, which he hoped will not end up making the former a direct aggressor State.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that, on 23 May 2021, Belarusian authorities communicated a false bomb threat to Ryanair Flight FR4978 before manipulating circumstances to influence the aircraft to land at Minsk National Airport. That such threat was communicated to the aircraft before the so-called “bomb threat” e-mail was even sent to such airport “leaves little room for doubt” in this regard, she stressed. It appears that the purpose of the brazen, dangerous operation was to arrest a journalist and his partner, and Belarus’ actions endangered the safety and security of a commercial passenger aircraft and the lives of all onboard. This use of a spurious terrorist threat to divert an airliner undermined measures put in place by the international community to counter real aviation terror threats, including those addressed by the Council in resolution 2309 (2016). Stressing that the Lukashenko regime has broken international law, created a major risk to the safety of innocent passengers and undermined aviation safety more broadly, she said the same is “proving itself to be entirely irresponsible on the issue of international peace and security”. Further, Belarus is facilitating the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Against that backdrop, she called on Belarus to hold accountable those responsible for this incident, desist from any further unlawful actions and end its support for the Russian Federation’s illegal war on Ukraine.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) reiterated that, based on ICAO’s findings, the bomb threat, which was communicated to the flight crew upon the instruction of senior regime officials of Belarus, was deliberately false. The Belarus authorities manufactured a false threat to force the flight land in Minsk to detain an opposition journalist in violation of the country’s obligations under the Chicago Convention. This act of unlawful interference put civilians in danger and undermined the fundamental trust between pilots and air traffic controllers, which could have wide-ranging safety repercussions for international civil aviation. He reiterated that the forced detention of the passenger and the opposition journalist, Roman Protasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega was a violation of international aviation law, the act of transnational repression and a manipulation of the civil air navigation system. He called on Belarus for the release of Sofia Sapega, the ceasing of intimidation and harassment of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and for the unconditional release of more than 1,300 political prisoners.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) welcomed the 18 July decision of ICAO and the resolution adopted by its assembly at its forty-first session, which recognized the responsibility of Belarus authorities in its diversion to Minsk of Ryanair flight FR4978 on 23 May 2021. He condemned Belarus’ violation of international air law and international aviation law, stressing that it is “nothing less than an act of air piracy”. That irresponsible act is one of numerous examples of the Belarusian regime’s brutal repression of those who oppose it. He further condemned the use of Belarusian territory for the conflict against Ukraine; fabrication of elections in 2021; repression of civil society; and instrumentalization of the migrant issue, and its involvement in the war against Ukraine. He added that the country is multiplying its violations of international law. He welcomed the courage of Belarusian citizens against the Lukashenko regime and called on that regime to drop any investigations and prosecutions of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega, as well as political prisoners held in Belarus, affirming France’s support for the Belarusian people in their democratic aspirations.
MADHU SUDAN RAVINDRAN (India) affirmed that his country maintains that incidents such as the one involving the Ryanair flight in May 2021 should be subject to independent investigation conducted by ICAO. Taking note of the conclusions of the investigation into the incident, he said that they should be based on facts and free of any political considerations. India calls for consistency in action over violations of the Convention on International Civil Aviation by Member States, encourages concerned Member States to extend cooperation to investigations and believes that sanctions or measures that harm civilian populations should be avoided.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland) condemned the unlawful interference committed by the Government of Belarus concerning the forced landing of Ryanair Flight FR4978, which was a clear breach of international aviation law and endangered the safety of all on board. Stressing that “the facts are clear”, he said that the bomb threat against the aircraft was deliberately false. “In sum, the Lukashenko regime orchestrated the hijacking of this civilian aircraft to arrest an opposition journalist and his companion,” he said. This incident was the latest in a pattern of repressive actions by the Lukashenko regime against the Belarusian people and civil society following the fraudulent 2020 presidential election. He condemned the use of State violence against peaceful protestors, indiscriminate detentions and restrictions on the freedoms of assembly and the press in Belarus, calling for their immediate cessation. Journalists have long been the international community’s early-warning system, and he urged the Council to uphold resolutions 1738 (2006) and 2222 (2015) to protect them. He also condemned Belarus’ involvement in the Russian Federation’s illegal, unjustified war, reminding Minsk of its responsibility to abide by international law.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), noted that his country has every reason to believe that the process of the so-called ‘fact finding’ was nothing other than the “widely practiced settling of scores by Western countries with the countries they dislike”. He pointed out the conclusion of the “final” ICAO report, discussed on 31 January, that no escort or interception was made by the Belarusian MIG-29, whereby the “Belarussian guilt” was not established. The “improved” report, however, “took a completely different decision”, he noted. It stated that Belarussian officials were involved in providing Ryanair flight with false information about the explosion threat. “The improved ICAO report, which is totally in contradiction with the initial one, gives resort to no trust”, he emphasized. He recalled that the investigation was supposed to establish facts and find gaps in insuring air flight safety, and not to condemn Belarus. Noting that Belarus was transparent during the investigation, he underscored that the “Western countries” didn’t wait for the outcome and decided to ban flights over Belarus, ban Belarusian air carriers from using European Union airspace and introduced unlawful restrictions against Minsk. “As a result, we have great doubts about ICAO’s impartiality because there was no objective and open instigation of the situation,” he stressed.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said that ICAO’s report makes clear that the Belarusian regime forced the landing of the Ryanair flight under the false premise of safety concerns. Its actions constituted a threat to European security, she said, adding that since this incident, the Lukashenko regime has helped facilitate the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. “With the benefit of hindsight, we now see the full context of the forced landing.” Turning to the political situation in Belarus, she called on the authorities to cease its attacks on civil society and human rights defenders, commit to regional stability, fully respect its obligations under international law, re-establish good relations with its neighbours and engage in a genuine dialogue with pro-democracy forces in the country.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), said that the indications of violations of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation by Belarus were received with concern. Altering a flight plan for political purposes establishes a serious precedent, which jeopardizes the integrity and the safety of international civil aviation. He pointed out that the report of the fact-finding investigation team should be seen as a call to all States to avoid such practices in the future. Recognizing that this issue relates to human rights and the safety of international civil aviation, he asked if whether the Security Council is the most appropriate forum to discuss the matter. In this regard, he suggested that the report be submitted to a more competent organ for the purpose, that is to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHCR).
TRACY WANJIRU MBABU (Kenya) expressed condolences and sympathies to the Government and people of Somalia for the heinous terrorist attack in Mogadishu. The operation of commercial air services hinges on Member States’ adherence to international law, conventions and other legal and administrative obligations, she said, voicing concern about State interference in freedoms of the air, particularly the First Freedom of the Air and the interception of the passenger aircraft in Belarus. Such action sets a dangerous precedent that could prompt unnecessary restrictions on commercial passenger air services and diminish confidence in air travel, she warned. Highlighting the duty of Member States to respect established international jurisdictions and norms and the rights of passengers, she stressed that they must honour and adhere to those principles under international law, the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, also known as the Montreal Convention, and Chicago Convention and other legal obligations and instruments that will guarantee the safety and security of all passengers boarding international aircrafts.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) expressed concern about the seriousness of the issue of unlawful interference, and recalled that the issue concerning the Ryanair flight in question was already addressed accordingly by the Council and the Assembly of ICAO, which are the competent bodies to consider the issue. Reiterating remarks made by his country on the matter, and based on the conclusions of the report, he condemned any action that runs contrary to the Chicago Convention. While the actions investigated by ICAO violated the norms of international civil aviation and jeopardized the security of a commercial passenger airliner and other passengers onboard, which is unacceptable, he pointed out that the incident and the subsequent detention of a journalist and his companion should be addressed within the competent forums of international civil aviation and human rights.
GENG SHUANG (China) pointed out that, since the Council discussed this issue in May 2021, the ICAO has been responsible for handling this matter in accordance with the division of labour and its responsibility. Whether it is appropriate that a small number of Council members convened today’s debate to discuss this incident requires discussion. Regardless, he stressed that this matter should be handled pursuant to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, based on facts and evidence, and without geopolitical considerations, selectivity or double standards. The ICAO — as a specialized United Nations agency responsible for civil-aviation affairs — should abide by the purposes and principles of the Chicago Convention and perform its duties strictly according to its mandate. Further, it should fully listen to the views of relevant parties, equally address all concerns, conduct independent, professional analysis and “draw conclusions that can stand the test of time”, he said. Reiterating that China has always opposed unilateral sanctions, he added that restrictions on Belarus are detrimental to the health and development of civil aviation and, therefore, should be lifted immediately.
LANA NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), said that her country, as a major global aviation hub, has prioritized civil aviation as an important field in its own economic diversification. In this regard, she reiterated support for the upholding of rules and standards that govern international civil aviation, including the Chicago Convention. She noted that when there is an incident affecting the safe functioning of civil aviation, it is important to establish the facts, professionally and impartially. Furthermore, she commended the work of the ICAO Fact Finding Investigation Mission and urged Member States to comply with applicable Conventions and regulations. Recognizing that international civil aviation rules and standards are mutually beneficial to all States, she pointed out that they should continue to be delt with as a technical matter.
KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana), welcoming ICAO’s report, said the disruption of air travel by unauthorized authorities poses grave danger not only for passengers, but also to the wider global community and the many States which rely on predictable air travel for inter-State exchanges. The diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978, like other incidents of State and non-State orchestrated attacks on international civil flights, is incompatible with the norms of international behaviour and deserves international condemnation. She reminded all States parties not to use international civil aviation for purposes inconsistent with the Chicago Convention and stressed the urgent need for enhanced cooperation among States parties and ICAO to secure the aviation environment from all threats.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the cooperation shown by most of the States concerned in the investigation. Noting the seriousness of the reported facts, he called on all States concerned to participate constructively in the investigations by providing all the information required to establish the facts, in accordance with the international legal instruments governing air navigation. He further urged all countries concerned to respond to the requests for information and to cooperate in good faith in the criminal investigations to establish responsibility. It is essential that the safety of air traffic be preserved under all circumstances and that the integrity of equipment, crew members and passengers never be subject to restrictions that are counter to the Chicago Convention, he stressed.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania) recalled that the incident that took place involving the hijacking of a flight by Belarusian authorities on 23 May 2021 endangered the lives of 122 persons of various nationalities, and thanked all countries who engaged with the ICAO team and provided information to help identify facts. Lithuania fully shares the assessment of the investigation, which found the incident was in violation of the Montreal Convention and the Chicago Convention, and found the bomb threat to be deliberately false. The grave incident was carried out through communications by senior Government officials whose sole purpose was to detain an anti-Government opposition figure onboard, he continued, adding that his country has carried out investigations into the enforced disappearance according to relevant laws. Lithuania has duly informed other States involved in the incident for mutual legal assistance. He condemned the actions by Belarus, calling on the rights violations involved in the incident to be subject to the scrutiny of the Human Rights Council. Belarus should be compelled to make information available to the fact-finding mission of ICAO, and the Security Council should remain seized on the issue.
KRZYSZTOF SZCZERSKI (Poland) said that the materials contained in the ICAO report “clearly indicate” that the sanction measures taken against Belarus by the European Union and other countries in the aftermath of the incident were an appropriate response to an act of unlawful interference. He went on to recall that, in 2021, the Minsk regime decided to engineer a migration crisis of unprecedented size to exert political pressure on the European Union. Polish border authorities still record violent, daily attempts to illegally cross the border, and this weaponization of migration serves the sole purpose of diverting attention from helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. He also said that Belarusian authorities violate human rights on a massive scale, noting that, to “create an external enemy”, Minsk undertook a series of hostile activities against the Polish minority in Belarus. Recalling that the President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, openly admitted on 4 October that Minsk is taking part in the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, he stressed that Moscow has used Belarus as a launching pad for its attacks since the very first days of the invasion. He expressed concern over this complicity, calling on Minsk to withdraw its support and “help to stop the shedding the blood of your next-door neighbours”.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), also speaking for Estonia and Czech Republic, reiterated his strong condemnation of the Ryanair flight in Minsk on 23 May 2021. “This pre-planned and intentional act of the Lukashenko regime was a blatant attack on international civilian aviation safety and showed flagrant disregard for international law,” he stressed. The ICAO investigation provides trustworthy and reliable information, which constitutes a good basis for further actions of the Council. He urged the Council to maintain the close attention to the safety of international aviation and full accountability for those responsible. “It is clear to everybody by now that Lukashenko regime landed the plane by force for one reason only — to arrest the journalist and civil activist who used to criticize Lukashenko regime,” he said. In this regard, he recalled that there are 1,337 political prisoners in Belarus.
He went on to say that “due to various support of Russia, Lukashenko managed to keep the de facto power in Belarus at the expense of fundamental human rights, despite of the large majority of Belarus people demanding change”. He pointed out that since February 24, Belarus has supported and enabled the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine in political and practical ways. He, thus, called on Belarus to stop supporting the aggression; to immediately release all prisoners sentenced on politically motivated grounds and cease all other ongoing human rights violations; to respect fundamental democratic rights of Belarusian citizens; and stop hybrid attacks on the European Union border.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), noting that 11 Greek citizens were among the passengers on the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, said that practices of this kind belong to another era nor are they befitting of any State bound by its international obligations. From the outset, Greece has supported the adoption of tough measures against Belarus to send a strong message that such behaviour cannot be tolerated. This incident cannot go without consequences, she said, emphasizing that violations of the Montreal Convention not only endanger civil aviation, but also breaches the ICAO Convention and its regulatory framework.
ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany) condemned Belarus’ false diversion of the Ryanair flight and communication of a bomb threat, noting that since the presidential elections in August 2021, the authorities have organized a relentless campaign of persecution and intimidation to eradicate a formerly vibrant civil society and political opposition. Today there are well over 1,300 political prisoners in Belarus with thousands more forced into exile, she said, adding that several hundred civil society and charity organizations have been dissolved. Her country is appalled by those immense restrictions affecting all of Belarusian society, she stressed, noting that it has thus expanded its support programmes for civil society in Belarus. The initiative supports, among others, students, independent media and victims of State violence, and funds the documentation of human rights crimes for which the Lukashenko regime must be held accountable. She urged the Government of Belarus to immediately stop its support for the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine, free all political prisoners and unconditionally end its campaign of domestic repression.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus) stressed that the ICAO report was hastily written, biased, not consensus-based, and riddled with errors and inaccuracies. Further, it was based on incomplete information due to a lack of international cooperation, which it notes itself. Information needed to answer key questions was not provided. As well, the use of information from an anonymous source in the absence of technical expertise is unacceptable, he emphasized, calling the “alleged audio file fraudulent and false”. Moreover, the information from the real air traffic controller on the Belarus side was not taken into account, he said, adding that the facts point to the captain of the plane personally making the decision to land the aircraft in Minsk. However, these facts did not impede Western States from accusing Belarus of causing the plane to be forcibly landed, and of levelling accusations of air terror on his country.
On sanctions imposed against his country’s national carrier, he recalled that it was the only airline company that saved other countries’ nationals at their own request at a time of pandemic-era lockdowns. Responding to references made to Mr. Protasevich, he said a video address by the journalist in question was prepared specifically for the meeting and can be found on the Twitter account of his country’s Mission. The court decision to detain him was taken in accordance with the law, as his country is “a rule of law State, contrary to some others”. Calling the many accusations regarding human rights violations in Belarus “exotic”, he also pointed out that sanctions against his country will affect global supplies of potash fertilizer, as it manufactures a third of such fertilizers. Therefore, such measures will lead to additional deaths by starvation of tens of millions of people. Those imposing such sanctions are “depriving people of the right to life and are then brazen enough to lecture us about how to abide by human rights, as you understand them”, he said. Such actions will lead to the overthrow of the imposers of such measures or will lead to “millions arriving from countries you try to destroy: not to obtain mythical human rights, as you understand them, but for a piece of bread”, he added.