Belarus Denies NYT Report on Situation Surrounding Ryanair Plane Landing in Minsk
14:52 GMT 09.12.2021 (Updated: 14:54 GMT 09.12.2021)
MINSK (Sputnik) - The US article citing a Belarusian airport dispatcher who purportedly was on duty during the May emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk is "deliberately false," Artem Sikorsky, the head of aviation at the Belarusian Transport Ministry, said on Thursday.
The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing EU security forces, that the former Minsk airport operator fled to Poland and told the local authorities his own version of events which, the newspaper said, could be used by the Polish government to sue Belarus. The ex-dispatcher was cited as saying that the emergency landing operation was managed by a Belarusian State Security Committee officer, who was in the control room the entire time and constantly reported developments to someone on the phone.
"[The article] is intended for ordinary people who are not aware of the specifics of civil aviation," Sikorsky was quoted as saying by the state-run Belta news agency.
Sikorsky said that "this knowingly false information" appeared just when Minsk requested that Poland and the International Civil Aviation Organization provide monitoring data. The requested data included "the talks of the operator in Vilnius with the pilot and talks of the crew members in the cabin," according to the Belarusian official.
8 December 2021, 10:56 GMT
He suggested that the ex-dispatcher might have agreed to "some deals" under pressure, pointing out that the article contained only "the interpretation of his words by the Polish special services, but not his own words."
On 23 May, Belarus diverted a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius to Minsk over a bomb threat that turned out to be false. Two passengers aboard the aircraft, Roman Protasevich, co-founder of the Nexta Telegram channel (labelled as extremist in Belarus), and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who is suspected of publishing the private data of Belarusian security services officers, were detained during the stopover at the airport.