U.S. accuses Belarus of piracy in arrest of reporter

New York — U.S. prosecutors charged four Belarusian government officials with aircraft piracy on Thursday for diverting Ryanair’s flight to arrest opposition journalists using a tactic that threatened a bomb. did.

The accusation announced by a federal prosecutor in New York is how a regularly scheduled passenger plane traveling between Athens, Greece and Vilnius, Lithuania was diverted to Minsk, Belarus by air traffic control authorities on May 23. I explained.

“Since the dawn of powered flight, countries around the world have worked together to keep passenger planes safe. Defendants have argued and launched planes to promote the inappropriate purpose of suppressing freedom of speech. By detouring, we broke these criteria. “

Ryanair said a Belarusian flight controller had ordered the pilot to land in Minsk, saying there was a bomb threat to the airliner. The Belarusian army scrambled the MiG-29 fighter to encourage the crew to follow the instructions of the flight controller.

Arrested journalist and activist Raman Platasevic ran a popular messaging app that helped organize a large-scale demonstration against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The 26-year-old Platasevic left Belarus in 2019, where he was charged with inciting riots.

Epoch Times Photo
Belarusian police arrested journalist Raman Plata Sevic (C) in Minsk, Belarus on March 26, 2017. (SergeiGrits / AP photos, files)

In August, US President Joe Biden celebrated the first anniversary of Lukashenko’s election and imposed new sanctions for his sixth term, leading Eastern European countries. This is a vote stating that the United States and the international community are full of irregularities.

Widespread belief that the 2020 vote was stolen triggered massive protests in Belarus, increasing the crackdown on protesters, opponents and independent media by the Lukashenko administration. More than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands were beaten and imprisoned. The protests lasted for months, and I loved them only when winter began.

Those charged in court documents on Thursday were identified as Leonid Mikaraevich Chulo, the head of the Belarusian state air navigation authority, Belarusian Vigazia Republican Single Air Navigation Services Company. Oleg Kazyuchits, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Belaeronavigatsia; Two Belarusian national security forces whose full identities are unknown to the prosecutor.

A US prosecutor described the accused as a fugitive and said he was charged with attempting to pirate an aircraft. Messages requesting comment were sent to the Belarusian Embassy in Washington and the Belarusian Embassy in New York. Their phone rang unanswered Thursday night.

U.S. officials say they have jurisdiction over the case because U.S. citizens were on board the plane.

After last year’s episode, the European Union quickly banned Belarusian airlines from using airspace and airports in blocks of 27 countries, urging EU-based airlines not to fly over Belarus, Sanctions have been imposed on some Belarusian officials. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the plane case was a “hijack”. Lithuania has told us to avoid Belarus, which is adjacent to all departures and arrivals, but Ukrainian leaders have moved to ban Ukrainian flights through the airspace of their neighbors.

However, Russia, a major ally of Belarus, provided support, claiming that Belarus acted in line with international procedures against the threat of the bomb and that the West responded in a hurry. Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Lukashenko at a meeting a few days after the incident and nodded sympathetically saying that Brock was trying to destabilize his country when Lukashenko was furious about EU sanctions.

Associated Press