At yesterday’s evening special briefing in Minsk, they discussed the forced / voluntary landing of a Ryanair aircraft at the capital’s airport.
The Belarusian authorities continue to assert that the airliner with the Belarusian oppositionist on board, following the Athens-Vilnius route, landed at the capital’s airport voluntarily. The decision was made by the crew after reporting a bomb on board. Artem Sikorsky, head of the aviation department of the Ministry of Transport of Belarus, said:
External informational stuffing and incompetent assessments regarding the actions of the Belarusian authorized bodies are shocking and cause misunderstanding.
He urged “not to politicize the situation” and patiently wait for the results of the investigation, inviting international organizations to take part in it and promising to provide full information. However, according to the Belarusian side, there were 123 people on board. According to information from Lithuania, initially there were 126 passengers, and 121 landed in Vilnius. So there are some doubts about the desire to provide complete and reliable information.
According to the Belarusian version of the development of events, a letter in English was received at the Minsk airport, allegedly sent by Hamas, with a warning about the explosives planted in the liner. The device is supposed to work in the airspace over Vilnius. At the same time, Belsat draws attention: the reason for the written threats had already lost relevance at that time, since the ceasefire and the truce between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which were discussed in the message, were reached 2 days before it was received.
The Commander of the Air Force of Belarus noted at the briefing that MiG29 was raised exclusively to escort the plane, which has already headed for Minsk. The lack of photos of the fighter on the passengers’ side indicates that it did not come close:
To force the plane to land, the MIG29 duty crew had to approach visual visibility and make contact with the crew commander within sight.
Sikorsky said that Minsk dispatchers only informed the pilots about the existence of the bomb and offered to land in Minsk. At the same time, the crew could choose any other place to land and turn to Kiev, Lvov, Warsaw or continue the flight along their route, to Vilnius. Noting that only 70 km were left to the final point of the flight along the route, and 175 km had to fly to Minsk, the head of the aviation department said:
The commander made the right decision – he flew to a more equipped airport with a long runway outside the city.
According to Sikorsky, at 12:47 pm the crew sent a signal of an emergency and informed about the decision to land in Minsk. The command to lift MIG29 for escort came at 12:58, after the message from the dispatch service of the airport “Minsk”, which arrived at 12:48. According to FlightRadar24, which was not even mentioned at the briefing, the plane began to deviate from the course to Vilnius at 12:45.
It was also mentioned at the briefing that already at 16:20 the plane, “after the completion of all procedures,” was offered to continue the flight. However, the liner took off only at 20:48, and this was the decision of the pilots.