View Full Version : FR4978 ATH-VNO diverted, escorted to Minsk, alleged bomb threat – but was it?

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23rd May 2021, 12:57
Ryanair 4978, en route from Athens to Vilnius, has apparently diverted to Minsk shortly before entering Lithuanian airspace. According to unconfirmed reports from the Twittersphere, Belarus authorities forced the plane to divert because of an alleged bomb threat. Flight was escorted by a Mig. Once the plane was on ground, a passenger has reportedly been arrested, who happens to be a dissident journalist facing the death penalty jail time in Belarus, Roman Protasevich.

https://cimg7.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/918x698/bildschirmfoto_2021_05_23_um_14_53_22_ffeae6a5323407c42ff44e 6c7d3d96bbb91284ba.png



23rd May 2021, 13:28

Part II:


23rd May 2021, 15:11
Situation is fluid, still developing. As it appears now, Belarus intelligence operatives staged an incident aboard FR4978 as a pretext for Belarus authorities to forcibly divert the flight to Minsk. Belarus government reportedly confirmed sending a MiG to escort. Also, the arrest has been confirmed.

This is a serious international incident. 171 passengers, most of them EU-citizens. Still on ground in Minsk. Lithuanian government has summoned Belarus representative. Various politicians picking up the story, with "hijacking" and "state terrorism" being the choice of words to describe this.

23rd May 2021, 15:57
Hijacking a plane by state officials. Seem to be a first. Wonder what the reaction of the EU will be. At first I would freeze all assets of Mr. Lukaschenko anywhere in the EU incl. Switzerland. And auction them off if Mr. Protassewitsch is not released within days. Why does the Belarus president thinks he gets away with this?
If this becomes SOP nobody will buy a ticket.

Martin Stephens
23rd May 2021, 16:03
This is a direct and deliberate provocation of NATO. It cannot be ignored.

23rd May 2021, 16:05
Who wants to bet that belavia get added to the EU blacklist, and that Belarusian airspace becomes off limits to EU operators?

23rd May 2021, 16:09
According to Air Law, shouldn't a civilian aircraft obey local airspace authorities? What captain should do, when he's asked / ordered to land?

23rd May 2021, 16:16
.......... and what will the situation be for those 179 pax and crew in the light of COVID quarantine regulations?

23rd May 2021, 16:33
Belarus “de facto” has hijacked a foreign airplane with international passengers and arrested one of the passengers just for being a dissident to the brutal fascist Lukashenko regime, who is torturing and murdering its opponents! Belarus must be thrown out of ICAO, all the international flights to and from its airports must be suspended indefinitely, and the territory of Belarus declared a no overflight zone for the international operators!

23rd May 2021, 16:39
Different thing though. State airplane vs public transport on a commercial operator, based on (wrong) intelligence advise vs. state hijacking of a commercial third country plane. State airplanes follow different rules and sometimes have to cope with different situations. I still remember Ms Merkels plane having to wait in a hold for more than 2 hours as some country would not grant passage mid travel to Asia (and yes, an A340 with just 50 passengers and no cargo can have enough fuel for that). It happens.

However, scheduled air traffic usually does not get diverted by state hijackers or shot down by them, except in Belarus or by Russia.

23rd May 2021, 16:58

Declare an emergency and land in Lituainia.
Acording to rumours Belarussian thugs onboard trying to interfere with crew.

23rd May 2021, 16:58
Outrageous act of state criminality. Belarus must be made to pay a major diplomatic price for diverting an international flight to commit a criminal kidnapping.

23rd May 2021, 17:16

With a MIG 29 on your tail and a very trigger happy dictator calling the shots?

23rd May 2021, 17:27

Thing is, a very similar situation happened in 2016 with Belarus 737 reg. EW-456PA, which had been forced to land in Kyiv. It's not the first time these things happen, and it looks like if the local authorities really want to land you, they just do.

23rd May 2021, 17:44
Not much of a diversion, closer to a false flag operation, followed by an interception. Absolutely unfathomable.

At the moment, we lack a lot of crucial information, particularly as it pertains to the timeline of things happening on the flight. When did the threats of a bomb aboard start? Immediately after entering BY airspace? To my knowledge, we are currently mostly operating on Twitter posts. With hindsight, one would take the AC over Polish (NATO) airspace right then and there, but who here could honestly make that call from a flight deck in that situation. At the time the AC turns for Minsk, they would have been closer to EYVI...so if we assume that this is the point where the crew starts taking the threat seriously, that would be your logical destination...however, a Fulcrum on your wing will surely dissuade you from just "sending it" at that point.

What matters now is that passengers and crew are returned unharmed ASAP and that Belorussian airspace be avoided for the foreseeable future. A criminal and despicable act that needs to have consequences.

23rd May 2021, 17:50
The thugs that hijacked the flight will shortly find themselves on no fly lists, with the possible exception of Russia and certain other CIS states. There will also be Interpol red notices if they take the train to any EU states.

Bellingcat is good at seeing through phony passports.

The AvgasDinosaur
23rd May 2021, 17:57
Put a snow plough in front of any EW- aircraft not at home yet ! Stop all flights to or from Belorussia ?
Just a thought

23rd May 2021, 17:58
No bomb threat, absolutely unbelieveable.
Just heard on the BBC 1800 NEWS A/C released and on its way, repoered stated it was assumed 1 passenger arrested and not on board.

23rd May 2021, 18:27
There was the BOAC VC-10 forced to land in Libya in 1971.
Two passengers taken off and executed.

23rd May 2021, 18:46
Apparently the 'hijackers' got off in Minsk.

23rd May 2021, 18:48
Well, it looks like I'll be avoiding Belarusian airspace for a while.

This has to be one of the worst examples of an old school dictator still thinking it is the 1970's.

I just hope that people take the right action and not allow this to be a prelude to war.

Profit Max
23rd May 2021, 19:02
Landed in Vilnius half an hour ago. I'm sure media will report soon from passengers.

23rd May 2021, 19:18
Ryanair have tweeted the following:


23rd May 2021, 19:53

What has the reaction been?

It has been angry and it is growing.

The US ambassador to Belarus, Julie Fisher, tweeted that it was "abhorrent" Mr Lukashenko had faked a bomb threat and sent fighter jets to arrest a journalist.

Lithuania called for EU countries to jointly recommend that planes avoid Belarusian airspace, to summon Belarusian ambassadors, and to protest against the use of military aircraft to divert commercial flights.

European Council chairman Charles Michel said EU leaders would discuss "this unprecedented incident" on Monday at a Council summit and it would not "remain without consequences".

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this was a "serious and dangerous incident".

The UN's agency for civil aviation, ICAO, said it was concerned about an "apparent forced landing" which could be "in contravention of the Chicago Convention" which sets out the rules on airspace and aircraft safety.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: "Hijacking a civilian plane is an unprecedented act of state terrorism that cannot go unpunished."


We do not yet know the full details of this story but its implications could be huge.

There are questions about freedom of the air: how vulnerable may other flights be to this kind of behaviour? Some are already calling it an act of aggression or state terrorism, a form of hijacking. In how much danger were the passengers placed? What precedent may be set? Should flights be diverted away from Belarus airspace?

There are questions for international law: to what extent was this act unlawful, as many presume, and if so, what consequences should there be? There are questions about freedom of speech: will critics of other authoritarian regimes fear this could happen to them?

And there are questions for international diplomacy. Political figures across Europe have already called for the EU and Nato to intervene.

There are demands for further sanctions to be imposed on the government of Belarus, whose legitimacy is questioned by many in the West after disputed elections last year.

President Lukashenko is often described as Europe's last dictator. Will the word "pirate" now be added to his list of titles?

23rd May 2021, 20:44
EASA should forbid EU operated airplanes to enter Belarus airspace. Simple as that. And then the rest of the world should do the same.

Less Hair
23rd May 2021, 21:02
They have to hand over the missing passenger.

23rd May 2021, 21:15
Will this be treated as a "serious incident", to be investigated (and if so by whom - Irish AAIU, or Greeks/Lithuanians?).

Was it an EI-registered a/c?

Would be very interesting to see some hard facts published ASAP. I know others have touched on this, but crew decision to divert to Minsk is certainly interesting when one considers much greater proximity to Vilnius, I would like to see ATC transcripts, know facts of when did MiG appear, did crew see it, etc. etc.

Altogether a very shocking event, and I for one am surprised to see EU a/c still crossing Belorussian airspace some hours later.

23rd May 2021, 21:28
Michael O'Leary is uncharacteristically quiet.

23rd May 2021, 21:29

EI-reg: no. Polish reg.
ATC transcripts: LiveATC doesn't have coverage of the FIR. Not sure if there are any other sites listening for that airspace (other than various military operations of course)
Crew testimony may be slow in being forthcoming - Ryanair may not want to look like an involved party if it meant having to divert around Belarussian airspace indefinitely - would make VNO-KBP a bit awkward for one thing.

Flightradar claims their data indicates FR crew delayed descent https://twitter.com/flightradar24/status/1396482250812841986

23rd May 2021, 21:36

Indeed, but as MarkD writes it is not in his interests to make noise about this. All it has cost him is $ few thousand in Jet A-1 and maintenance costs. He doesn't care about rule of law/human rights in Belarus. If Belorussian airspace gets closed to EU a/c, he stands to lose much more than the cost of the fuel on this one flight.

23rd May 2021, 21:49

You are right, but with the leadership of the country resorting to hijacking, what else must happen in order for some serious steps to be taken?!!

Alpine Flyer
23rd May 2021, 22:52
If the same crew took the plane to ATH their FDP would be quite formidable at 15+ hours.

It would be politicians' duty to take action and close Belarus airspace for EU planes. Sadly this is not going to happen as the EU unlike the US can't even be bothered to close airspace where live fighting is going on and leaves it to airlines to decide whether to fly there. This is not really surprising as the EU has decided it doesn't need one aviation safety authority for one level of safety but 27 national authorities torn between flight safety and promotion of aviation interpreting the same rules with wildly varying outcomes.

As pointed out airlines are not really interested as state hijackings don't rate high on the danger scale and re-routings are expensive which hurts even more in meagre times like these.

23rd May 2021, 23:20
The Captain has final authority over an aircraft’s operation, however in the event of a GENUINE hi jacking or bomb on board the local authorities would be justified in keeping the aircraft away from built up areas or potential targets and a forced diversion to a suitable facility would be in order.

This however, was state terrorism along the lines of a rogue state or 1980s Libya and needs to be dealt with seriously, as any similar action by an outlaw organisation would be. Making false bomb threats and unlawful interference in the operation of an aircraft just to start with.

24th May 2021, 00:49
As captain would you have taken the risk with a MIG in your window? As armchair pilot it is easy to ask for bold decisions.
You learn in flight school, if a fighter shows up and makes contact, you follow their and ATC instructions. That's exactly what they did.

24th May 2021, 01:04
The maths are not completely adding up.
The "rumours are"
Disruption on board the flight, allegedly several Russian / Belarusian special forces created some safety concern with the cabin crew. Note these people did not continue the flight from Belarus to VNO after the Ryanair flight was released.

Bomb threat procedure (SOP) would NOT have been to have divert to a country "outside" the EU - that is ruled by an unstable mental leader Lukashenko, who has complete disregard for human rights, free speech or any freedom that does not present him as the "great" leader he himself perceives himself to be. In addition VNO airport was much closer then Minsk, so again diverting to Minsk would NOT have been SOP.

Furthermore any CREDIBLE Bomb threats should follow certain procedures and a certain "chain of command"
A Commander, unless he has seen a "bomb device" with his own eyes, and has some knowledge of explosive devices, is not the one who makes these decisions, if it is a credible "bomb threat" or not.

The only way the RYR flight can defend diverting to Minsk, would be that it was forced to change course due to an aggressive interception. The current Ryanair press release does not reflect any current information of this yet. I would assume they would be trying to keep this information confidential as long as they are able.

At what moment did the MIG show up? How many MIG's did show up. 2 - 3 more minutes straight ahead, and they would have been in Lithuanian airspace.

This was a hijack by air.

Unfortunately we do have similar "precedence" within Europe, when the airplane of the Bolivian president Evo Morales was forced to land in Vienna, as they believed Snowden was onboard.
That was both a forced diversion and search of the aircraft by the Austrian authorities. If they in fact was searching for Snowden, his life would / could have been in danger if he had been returned to the USA.

Then again Snowden was on the "right side" and if found should have been protected regardless. But we will never know what would have happen if he had been found.

24th May 2021, 01:27
@2unlimited "The only way the RYR flight can defend diverting to Minsk, would be that it was forced to change course due to an aggressive interception. The current Ryanair press release does not reflect any current information of this yet."

The Ryanair press release also makes no mention of six +/- lost passengers.

24th May 2021, 04:15
The political problem we face here is that Lukashenko (Belarus) would not act like this without some sort of "approval" from Putin.

Whatever we think we are watching here now, could be the pre-text for a future invasion / annexation of the Baltics. This has always been one of Putin's long term goals, reunite the old Soviet states.

What happen after MH17? Not a lot.
What happen after invasion of Crimea, not a lot.
What happen after the UK poisoning attempts, not a lot.
Can we see a trend here now?

Putin has without being directly involved tested the waters, and watching the the re-action, or should we already now predict there will be complete in-action from either ICAO, EU or NATO, as nobody really wants to poke the "bear".

If only Belarus had oil like in the ME, the rest of the world would be truly outraged, instead we remain on the merry go around, trying to keep the bear content, so it won't attack us.
First action should be stopping Nord Stream 2, dependency on Russian energy, how dumb can you really be within Europe?

Russia are playing their "war games" with both Europe and UK, knowing they are all talk without a bite. It is embarrassing to watch, and having Trump for 4 years did not exactly help as he was clearly in some debts to Putin.

24th May 2021, 04:40
So what horse did Russia have in this event? If there really were four Russian Spetznaz/FSB/OMON other special ops, why were they there and why taking action on behalf of Belarus?

24th May 2021, 04:46
Pertinent to the discussion, some of the above mentioned "other ICAO guidance" happens to be the Warsaw Montréal Convention (1971) Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, attached below.

Notable content relevant to the topic:

Article 1 para 1 provision (e)
Article 3
Article 4 para 2 both provisions (a) and (b)
Article 6
Article 14 para 1 - which signatory Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic did not accept (p. 19 of the pdf)

It's a short read but a lot of headache for Polish diplomacy.

24th May 2021, 04:57

Agree to all of it, just not quoting the full text.

https://tass.com/politics/1290901 List of unfriendly states may be extended, says Deputy Foreign Minister

24th May 2021, 05:20

Western Europe used russian natural gas even in the cold war. In fact US installations are actually heated and powered by it. And funny enough, one of the main pipelines runs through Belarus providing a steady source of income for Lukashenko until NS 2 cuts the demand for that pipeline.

Personally i am against completing NS2 for the same reasons that we should tax domestically used Jet A1 the same as any other fuel including putting a CO2 price of at least €120 per ton of CO2 on it, but that is a completely different discussion. Geopolitical Belarus would be very much in favor of not completing NS2, we would strengthen Lukashenko with that.

24th May 2021, 05:29
Without a doubt, VNO would've been the safer, quicker and easier destination to fly to. We won't know if this thought crossed the Commander's mind. If it did, and he was overruled by the MIG then this is a hijack. Hindsight is a beautiful thing but this was an occasion for 7500 and a mayday on 121.5.

24th May 2021, 05:37
To those defending continuing to VNO - would you actually dare not to follow the instructions of an intercepting fighter jet, especially in the airspace of what is known as a genuine dictatorship?

24th May 2021, 06:16
Meanwhile in Russia: "State Duma deputy Vyacheslav Lysakov called the arrest by the Belarusian authorities .... "a brilliant operation" of the country's special services."
So the Russians state it was a special ops mission, not a bomb threat mission.

Source: https://ria.ru/20210523/zaderzhanie-1733558011.html

24th May 2021, 06:30
Of course it was, considering that 4 KGB agents helped in the hijacking. Russia is, after all, a medium sized rogue state.

24th May 2021, 07:11

sometimes I wonder if some of you are real pilots... can you please tell me where on anyone’s mind would be the 121,5 option, when you are “escorted” by a friendly looking plane carrying missiles?

24th May 2021, 07:42
ICAO Annex 2 Rules of the Air

2. Action by intercepted aircraft

2.1 An aircraft which is intercepted by another aircraft shall immediately:
a) follow the instructions given by the intercepting aircraft, interpreting and responding to visual signals…

The civil airliner squawked 7700 not 7500.

Self explanatory.

24th May 2021, 08:18
Old advice of not arguing with anyone who is holding a loaded gun to your head. Crew under the most immense pressure imaginable acted safely and professionally. Highly commendable. But, hey, it's why we get all this dosh eh ?

24th May 2021, 08:41
In my day, a military aircraft formating was an interception, no question. The only acceptable response was to follow instructions (apart from the West Berlin air corridors, but that's ancient history). Duty of care to passengers over-rides any political considerations.

24th May 2021, 09:04
In the US after 9/11 setting 7500 and refusing to follow instructions would mean an invitation to getting shot down. Maybe that was also on the skipper's mind.

24th May 2021, 09:04
The Latvian carrier AiBaltic has already rerouted the flights Riga-Tbilisi and Riga-Odessa, so that they didn’t fly over Belorussia. According to the Latvian Minister of Transportation, Tālis Linkaitis, a full cessation of any flights between Latvia and Belorussia is most likely to happen in a matter of days!

Count of Monte Bisto
24th May 2021, 09:07
Clearly this was air piracy by any credible definition of the term. I also agree with 2unlimited's take on this - he is completely correct. No one is going to do anything about this. The Russian state and its security apparatus is increasingly emboldened - you just need to see the attempted murder of Alexei Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment on trumped-up charges. The crew of the Ryanair flight are just like any one of us - the captain had absolutely no choice but to cooperate with the authorities of the country they were flying over and obey the instructions of the accompanying fighter plus associated fighter controller. They are merely the fall guys here. My guess is the West will do what it always does - huff, puff, promise to blow the house down but in the end send a fax to the UN to say they are displeased. I don't imagine the Russians are quaking in their boots.

dr dre
24th May 2021, 09:13
Indeed and in fact MOL has come out with the strongest possible statement (https://www.thejournal.ie/michael-oleary-diverted-ryanair-flight-belarus-5446302-May2021/?utm_source=shortlink):

“This was a case of state-sponsored hijacking, state-sponsored piracy. I can’t say much about it because the EU authorities and NATO are dealing with it at the moment.”

He said: “It appears the intent of the authorities was to remove a journalist and his travelling companion. We believe there were some KGB agents offloaded at the airport as well.”

24th May 2021, 09:32
Alpine Flyer

In a short statement aired on Sky News, O'Leary praised the "crews".

24th May 2021, 10:25
There is one big question that needs to be answered, which does not seem to be provided any facts or evidence so far.
Was the aircraft actually intercepted by fighter jets?
or did they get a warning through ATC that they would be intercepted unless they diverted to Minsk?
The "official story" is that they got "escorted" to Minsk so at what stage did the MIG encounter the RYR flight?

Did the RYR flight start diverting without any interception or any sight of the MIG, that is the interesting question.

Where are the photos of the intercepting aircraft, considering there would be passengers with phones able to take photos.

Are there Radar images, I would think there would be good radar coverage in this region.

Part of the statement reads: "Flight FR4978 turned east to Minsk shortly before it reached the Lithuanian border. Greece and Lithuania put the number of passengers on board at 171.

In a statement, Ryanair said the crew had been "notified by Belarus (Air Traffic Control) of a potential security threat on board and were instructed to divert to the nearest airport, Minsk".

The important question is did they act on these ATC instructions alone, where was the MIG (fighter jet) when the Ryanair flight turned towards Minsk.

There are not many countries in the European region you should know that you should "NOT" divert to unless you are forced by a fighter jet, and one of them is Belarus, if you are up to date with your current affairs news cycle.

As if it was verbal threat and instructions given by the Belarussian ATC, they would have been in Lithuanian airspace before any MIG would have been be able to intercept them. It does seem from the current reporting that the MIG escorted them to Minsk, but what we need to know is when exactly was the contact between the Ryanair aircraft and the fighter jet (MIG)

If they actually was not intercepted and diverted because of an ATC instruction (Order) then you would need to question the Situational Awareness and Decision Making process of the crew in these circumstances.

But we need more facts, before we can draw any such conclusions. Let's not kid ourselves, Lukashenko is well and truly an evil person, fully supported by Putin and Russia.

So I personally would like to know that at least the Ryanair crew diverted to Minsk because it was their last option and they had MIG's missiles pointed at them when they made the turn away from Lithuania and safe airspace.

The precedence of this going unpunished, will be enormous. Any country can then based on any aircrafts manifest, be able to intercept any aircraft over their airspace to get any passenger they might feel is threatening towards them or who simply disagree with them.

24th May 2021, 10:38
You can't bring the situational awareness of the crew into question, they have to follow ATC instructions.

24th May 2021, 10:47
it depends. Heading, altitude, etc. while conducting normal ATC - definitely. But decision where to proceed in case of a bomb threat - it’s purely on the crew with some recommendations from ATC.
They had to comply with interceptor’s instructions, not ATC.

Richard Dangle
24th May 2021, 10:50
Just adding my tenpenneth and I'll ry not to repeat others...

Belarus is a client state of Putin's Russia. That fact will moderate any state-level reaction.
In a better world, many commercial airlines could take state-level reaction out the game by joining together and refusing to operate in/out of Belarus. Regrettably (imo) we don't live in that world. Money will rule all, as it always eventually does.
Based on the info available thus far, pilots and crew did exactly what they are paid to do. Put the safety and interests of the crew and passengers first. What happens to the poor souls who were abducted is not their responsibility. Losing the lives of all onboard by ignoring a possible bomb threat, or getting shot down for failing to follow the directions of an armed military fighter would be their responsiblity.
States like Russia, Belarus (and plenty more) don't give a fig about western democratic opinion...the more outrage they get the better. Their audience is internal...ie their own people. Their message to their people is simple and timeless: "you threaten us we will come and get you and take you down. The West, (laughter) what do you think they can do? All they care about is money!"

24th May 2021, 10:52
In view of the 15 hours it would seem likely that there are crews involved rather than just crew. In that case where are the original crew. Are they safe?

24th May 2021, 11:15
The today’s Ryanair flight, Cyprus to Tallin was flying true belarusian airspace like nothing had happened yesterday

24th May 2021, 11:16
According to MOL:

“We’re debriefing our crew, who did a phenomenal job to get that aircraft and almost all the passengers out of Minsk after six hours,” he added."


fox niner
24th May 2021, 11:24

Good question. Is there a second crew involved? And where is the first crew? Did they evacuate as non-working crew?
Besides, I think that FTL limits do not apply to exeptional cases like this.
I your choice is to fly to Vilnius, or get arrested in Minsk, I would say that FTL rules are out of the window.

24th May 2021, 11:38
Interesting that international media is calling him an "activist" whereas he is known as a high-profile criminal in his home country and is on a wanted list for specific criminal conduct.
FYI, 2012 Turkey demanded an unplanned landing of a Syrian PAX plane in Ankara, interrupting a flight between Moscow and Damascus; 2013 the former president of Bolivia Evo Morales had to land in Austria as he was barred from crossing airspace of France and Portugal....many more examples in the past.

24th May 2021, 11:43

I believe it is Commanders discretion to do what he / she believes is the safest action for a safe outcome. In an Emergency and if you have a credible Bomb Threat, that would be a Mayday and land at the nearest airport. ATC instructions can be disregarded for a Mayday.

It would not mean making an 180 degree turn, into a country run by a dictator based on ATC instructions alone, to fly to an airport that is more then double the distance of your original destination airport.

But it would mean that you would need be at least slightly clued up on current local world affairs, to know that you really don't want the hassle to divert into a non-EU country, run by a dictator.

If the aircraft was never intercepted before the border of Lithuania by one more MIG's, then serious questions should be asked why the crew diverted to Minsk.

There does not seem to be any passenger statements / confirmations that the aircraft was intercepted by any fighter jets.

Also the "logic" of a bomb threat, why would a country then want to invite this aircraft to land in their own country, while they could leave it Lithuania to deal with it.

If there was MIG on their wing / tail, then that's another story, then I would say they had no other choice. Let's hope there will be a proper report of what really happen.

24th May 2021, 11:46

Horse****. I'm in Moscow with a bunch of Belorussians on a track day and they basically burst out laughing at that suggestion.

Of course, being openly against the government makes one a high level criminal in Belarus.

In countries like this they will have no problem charging anyone with specific criminal conduct no matter how obviously false it is.

24th May 2021, 11:56
Fully agree with this post... there can longer be any safety from rogue leaders if this action by Lukashenko is allowed to stand without any consequences for his handling high jacking of Ryan Air... All flights by all airline should be prohibited into Belarus... and all EU countries should suspend all landing aircraft out of Belarus... completely isolate the country from any air travel... They have lost that right due to their behaviour.

24th May 2021, 12:28

No, but my bet is that they never saw the FJ.

The presence of the Fulcrum is stated by Belarussian authorities, there was a statement by Lukashenka and an interview of a high rank military officer.
Quote "President Lukashenka ordered the fighter escort himself".

24th May 2021, 12:54
Now it is confirmed: Five passenger did not re-board in Minsk.
source: Lithuanian criminal police

24th May 2021, 12:55
Before we judge, we must have all details
Of course, we do! A well-known dictator is seizing by force a civil foreign aircraft en route to its foreign destination, to grab a political opponent from the plane. Those are FACTS!
While your and your troll-mates persuasive innuendos are, simply, political statements, trying to divert the attention from a technical topic to a political agenda.

24th May 2021, 13:00

He very clearly said "crews" in the audio clip (played on Sky News) of that quote. I listened to it twice to be sure.
Edit: Sky just played MOL audio clip again, he definitely said "crews" twice...
“We’re debriefing our crews, the crews did a phenomenal job......"

24th May 2021, 13:40

Thanks for the clarification, I haven't heard the audio clip.

24th May 2021, 13:47

You can't really compare this event to what happened in Belarus. In the case of the Bolivian president, this was a state flight. And as such this flight wasn't governed by ICAO treaties and such. State flights don't have an automatic over flight permission such as private flights and commercial flights do.

24th May 2021, 13:58
Forced landing in Belarus was 'state-sponsored hijacking' - O'Leary - YouTube

24th May 2021, 14:29

If ATC tried to tell me to divert somewhere twice as far away as my destination because of an unsubstantiated bomb theat I'd be highly sceptical of their motives, especially if that state were a known rogue like Belarus. Genuine escorting fighters don't get aggressive, standing on and saying Vilnius was much closer - I'm going there would at least allow an assessment of the situatiuon by causing the authority to declare its intentions, either by letting you go as they must, or by issuing a threat if you don't comply. Upon a threat at that point I would comply, but also consider a broadcast on 121.5 and dialling 7500.

24th May 2021, 14:39
You forget the 4 others “guys” who didn’t board the plane when it left Belarus.
Pretty sure they had a contingency plan (could be as simple as creating a real hijacking)

WillowRun 6-3
24th May 2021, 15:35
IFALPA, with ECA (European Cockpit Assn), statement. Missing: any mincing of words.

21prl03-global-pilots-on-ryanair-flight-4978_f.pdf (ifalpa.org) (https://www.ifalpa.org/media/3635/21prl03-global-pilots-on-ryanair-flight-4978_f.pdf)

24th May 2021, 15:54
Can't see it posted yet but UK has said the following so far:

24th May 2021, 16:04
Latvia and Belarus just a moment ago have severed ALL diplomatic ties over the yesterday’s hijacking outrage. The *entire* staffs of the both embassies will leave Riga and Minsk within 48 hours. All direct travel (not only by air) between the countries will be suspended indefinitely ASAP.

The United Kingdom officially has officially declared that the British air carriers will not be permitted to fly to Belarus or over its air space for undetermined time. UK will also immediately suspend the Belavia license to operate in the UK airspace.

24th May 2021, 16:07
FWIW as I'm reading it at the moment (1610 UTC) the likes of the UK are officially requesting UK carriers do not overfly Belarus - see the Grant Shapps tweet posted above, plus the UK CAA website here:


The "EU" are heading into a meeting shortly...but many members are not happy at all..


Less Hair
24th May 2021, 16:15
A Lufthansa flight from Minsk got searched before takeoff today by authorities who claimed there might be some security threat. This looks like escalating.

24th May 2021, 16:22
Scandinavian airline SAS said they would stop using Belarusian air space, and Cyprus-registered Avia Solutions said its Lithuania-based airlines would follow suit.

Lithuania’s transport minister, Marius Skuodis, said Poland’s LOT and Hungarian airline Wizzair would also not use Belarusian air space and said all flights to and from Lithuanian airports must from midnight GMT avoid Belarusian air space.

24th May 2021, 16:49
here you go


24th May 2021, 16:50
Originally Posted by BristolScout View Post (https://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/640620-fr4978-ath-vno-diverted-escorted-minsk-alleged-bomb-threat-but-post11049977.html#post11049977)
Michael O'Leary is uncharacteristically quiet.
Political courage does not go well with business.

Or perhaps he, unlike many on here, waited until he had more facts before speaking out. Having had time to get the story from the crew(s), he has now described this as "state sponsored hijacking"

24th May 2021, 16:55

Don’t you bother to provide a proof of what you just said about this guy being a criminal? I bet you will only find something similar to Mandela or Navalny case. Sure, they are criminals in the views of their criminal regimes.

24th May 2021, 16:58
Why nobody here is trying to compare this to a more or less similar incident:
Because it’s not similar - civil vs diplomatic flight operating under different rules….

The Ryanair flight was a civilian flight operating under the Warsaw Convention and was, it appears, hijacked (Russian and Belarusian agents on board and ATC saying there was a bomb threat), the flight was then intercepted diverted under military escort and forced to land in Belarus.

The agents on board who made the threats were not arrested and did not reboard aircraft. A passenger forcibly removed.

The Bolivian flight, in 2013, was a diplomatic flight operating under diplomatic rules requiring prior permission to enter the airspace of another country (RAF aircraft flying to Cyprus have to have prior permission from the French etc, otherwise they are turned back).

The flight in question was refused permission to enter French or Portuguese airspace. Th3 crew requested permission to land at Vienna in order to take on extra fuel in order to have enough to reroute. Permission was granted and th3 aircraft was inspected by customs and immigration when it landed. It was never intercepted and no one was removed from the aircraft.

No international laws or diplomatic treaties were broken.

24th May 2021, 17:57
Surely the simple answer is for the EU to simply put Belarus on the banned list, ie ban all EW reg aircraft from EU airspace and ban all flights between EU and Belarus. Stop all overflights (inconvenient but will drive the message home). Hopefully ICAO would follow suit.
Is that not the appropriate measure to take against state-organised hijack?

24th May 2021, 18:05
he is known as a high-profile criminal in his home country and is on a wanted list for specific criminal conduct.

Maybe you want to enlighten us what crimes he has committed that warranted the Belarus dictator government lead by Lukashenko to hijack an Airliner.

I mean look at Navalny, one of his crimes was that he was not returning to a court case because he had been poisoned by the FSB, and was hospitalized in an induced coma in Germany.

I guess some people's definition of criminal has a pretty low threshold.

Keep up the work defending the indefensible, as this what Putin and Lukashenko wants and needs.
I have many many Russian friends, I have even worked with Russian companies outside Russia, and Russian people are great and fun people, I have had many Vodka parties in the past, and you can't imagine how much they hate their own political leadership and corrupt government.

But if you speak up, it either ends with Novichok or in a camp in Siberia. Putin calls this "freedom of choice" Lukashenko is just another little dirty dog that follows Putin's orders.

24th May 2021, 18:21
If any capatain set off in that direction without enough fuel to entirely avoid Belarus today, then I'm afraid that was a rather foolish move. LHR-ISB on a 777-200er surely has enough room to stick on an hour or more extra fuel? Therefore I imagine there is probably something more to this than a simple numbers game.

24th May 2021, 18:30
LOT678 (SVO-WAW), now, straight through Belarus' airspace (FR24). So Poland is still on debate-mode?

24th May 2021, 18:36
Michael O'Leary is uncharacteristically quiet.
Evidently you missed this: Ryanair's Michael O'Leary: Forced landing in Belarus was 'state-sponsored hijacking' | Newstalk (https://www.newstalk.com/news/oleary-forced-landing-in-belarus-was-state-sponsored-hijacking-1199561)

24th May 2021, 18:38
I'd imagine if they WEREN'T intercepted, Ryanair, EASA etc would deny the rumours rather than just say nothing. It would be something they'd want to come out and make very clear.

Ryanair doesn't want to promote the idea that planes can be escorted by armed sueprsonic intercepters. It hardly will do anything to promote confidence from their clientele.

24th May 2021, 18:57
Are we really to believe that if a MIG intercepted a flight with over 170 passengers, and there would not have been a photo or video of the intercepting fighter jet?

Here is a video showing an example of an interception.

Having been on both sides of this "game" I'd offer the opinion that it certainly used to be possible to intercept an airliner and not make yourself visible to those on board....That video is one example of how it might be done, without embellishing things too much I'll just say other techniques/tactics certainly used to be available.

Personally I think as you say in the case of the FR intercept there are obviously still doubts about whether the MIG existed or not but the fundamental point I'd make is that you'd have to be darned brave to assume that just because you hadn't seen a fighter ATC was telling you about that it didn't exist and there wasn't a threat.

24th May 2021, 19:06
Given how close this seemed to happen close to the Lithuanian border, wouldn't they have had some primary radar recordings that would help clear things up? I appreceiate that once it's up close they'll probably only display as one reflection anyway.

24th May 2021, 19:07

There is a first hand evidence available to prove whether there was an intercept or not. Lithuanian and Polish radar stations are surveying Belarus airspace for obvious reasons and those radars are wired (together with number of other countries) into NATO CAOC in Uedem, Germany. Just a pity those who've seen the screens cannot post it on twitter ;)

24th May 2021, 19:30
The BBC coverage referred to in previous post includes an interview with a passenger who states she saw the "fighter", initially from a distance and subsequently at close range.

24th May 2021, 20:18
ATC ordering you to divert to a rogue state, lead by a crazy dictator, risking your crew and passengers ending up as hostages, or trying to make another 3 minutes straight ahead to get out of Belarussian airspace. Either way the crew were faced with a difficult choice, and we need more details to know what choices they had in reality.

Nobody is doubting there was a MIG close at one stage, but was it an intercept or was it an escort after the RYR started it's diversion to Minsk.

Those NATO radar images would have been mighty helpful to know these details.

24th May 2021, 20:19
The European Council today threatened further sanctions and called for bans of overflight between EU members and Belarus.

https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/2000x1852/european_council_e2lybwzweae47tz_851903a6a4c454e1ed27f8528cb c9174e58dafb5.jpg

Barend Leyts (@BarendLeyts) / Twitter (https://twitter.com/BarendLeyts)

Trinity 09L
24th May 2021, 20:58
UPS 2 from Cologne to HKG has just turned right to overfly Belarus?

Profit Max
24th May 2021, 21:42
Have you seen the altitude profile of the flight? It seems the crew wanted to get to Lithuanian airspace as quickly as possible as they did not initiate their descent into VNO as usual.

24th May 2021, 21:48
Maintaining FL390 while discussing possible bombs on board doesn't seem to make immediate sense?!

Profit Max
24th May 2021, 21:48
Would the CVR still be available for readout? And were there any recordings of ATC radio traffic?

24th May 2021, 21:55
The CVR should record 2h.

It should not have been erased after landing in UMMS/MSQ as there was an incident. The 2h should be sufficient for the diversion to MSQ and the short flight back to VNO.
However, maybe the "security personal" at MSQ erased it while looking for the "bomb".

24th May 2021, 22:15
Has any agency stated they are going to investigate and have they requested the CVR?

Alpine Flyer
24th May 2021, 22:31
Alpine news report that all Belarus carriers will be banned from EU airports and all EU operators will be "asked to refrain from overflying Belarus". The latter is a shame as it should be an order, not a request. We certainly need one EU aviation authority.

24th May 2021, 23:55
A U.S. registered 747-8 over Belarus today would certainly seem to be relevant to the discussion.

25th May 2021, 04:29
Exactly. Don't get shot at. Turn and land as instructed. On top of that, you're being fed false information the Lithuanians are not accepting you anyway AND threatening with their S-200 and Patriots. Easy job, no need to take sides or make decisions - just follow instructions.

For all we know, staying up there past TOD could have been the result of similar gameplay from the BY special ops team. "Oh sorry captain, VNO ACC does not give permission to land, because of your bomb. Descent not authorized, there's no one to hand you over to."

25th May 2021, 05:57
Like it was hard to check what's happening, on the right frequency - they were less than 50 NM out. Or ACARS. Or phone. Or whatever. Or they were jammed, too :/

ATC Watcher
25th May 2021, 07:47
Lots of people here do not know how ATC works and what the international interceptions rules are
The big question still open is what the crew was told and if they were intercepted or not.. If the aircraft was indeed intercepted then a large part of the discussion is becoming irrelevant.
As to disregarding an interception, well I would not advise this in any country, and definitively not after 9/11. Also since a couple of years the world is slowly becoming a much more dangerous place.

Anyway the RYR crew has been debriefed, their story will no doubt come out soon , so a bit of patience.

25th May 2021, 08:31
Alpine Flyer

FWIW the UK CAA website (updated last night) worded the sanctions as a request rather than a direct order to UK operators:

“The Civil Aviation Authority has also issued a notice to all UK registered airlines requesting that they avoid overflight of any territory of the Republic of Belarus”.


25th May 2021, 08:49
Interesting twist: Asta Skaisgirytė, chief foreign policy adviser to the Lithuanian president, said that Belarus used two military aircraft, a MiG-29 fighter jet and a Mi-24 helicopter, in the operation, which was likely staged by the Belarusian KGB.

Taking into account that these folks most probably have the primary radar data from "better radars" and "some other intelligence info" available, I'd be keen to know what was the role of the Hind...

Source: https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1415775/lithuanian-prosecutors-launch-probe-into-aircraft-hijacking-by-belarusian-regime

25th May 2021, 08:51
With the benefit of hindsight we all know this was an outrageous ploy, notwithstanding that, I suspect the FR Bomb Threat procedure is based on industry standards, the first two lines of our BTP;

Maintain current flight altitude.Divert to a nearest suitable airport.
It then rambles on and it is not appropriate to post here, however it does make sense to maintain current altitude until further investigation is carried out.

25th May 2021, 09:15
The cynic in me reflects on the fact that a somewhat lukewarm response to this outrageous act of international piracy might be motivated by a wish to reserve the possibility of a similar action by a "responsible state actor" in the case of a situation where "real bad guys" might be similarly intercepted. Call me cynical...

25th May 2021, 09:37
ATC Watcher

The Minsk ATC has reportedly released the audio (haven't managed to locate it so I will refrain from any conclusion) of the interchange between the pilots and the tower. Again reportedly the pilot says “WE are requesting emergency landing”. It would obviously be most helpfull to have said recording (I'm sure it exists).

Anyway the RYR crew has been debriefed, their story will no doubt come out soon , so a bit of patience.

I wouldn't be so sure of that... especially if it doesn't match the current narative

25th May 2021, 09:49
Lithuanian Minister of Defense appeared on Lithuanian TV yesterday around 2200 EEST. According to him, a Belorussian fighter jet MiG-29 was scrambled while the pilot of the airliner was in doubt whether to comply with Belorussian ATC. MiG was airborne for 13 min but did not get closer to the airliner than some 40 km. When the flight was released from MSQ, MiG escorted the plane to the Lithuanian border at close distance.

This is backed up by the BBC interview of a passenger, who said that she saw a fighter jet far away before landing in MSQ, but close during MSQ-VNO flight. Can anyone comment if it is possible to see a fighter jet 40 km away?
(Unfortunately I cannot post URLs yet, but BBC News page entitled "Belarus Ryanair flight diverted: Passengers describe panic on board" has a video with interviews, see at 1:00 min)

A passenger interviewed by Lithuanian media said that there was no disruption on board prior to landing in Minsk.

25th May 2021, 11:12
Well..yes, on a good clear day you might, just, and I'd say certainly if it is trailing (i.e. leaving a contrail), but identifying anything at that range without optical assistance..in my IMHO no.

25th May 2021, 11:28

There is one news article on youtube where you can hear the actual ATC recording (which is dubbed in Russian immediately) and the RYR pilots are not requesting emergency landing they ask if advice to land at MSQ comes from company or Airport authorities and ATC replies advice comes from them. Starts at 27 seconds


25th May 2021, 11:31
A MIG 29 intercepting and joining up on a airliner at cruise altitude doing .80 Mach is a difficult maneuver to pull off. It would require excellent GCI and the ability to go supersonic. With the fuel limitations of the MiG 29 it would require near perfect timing on takeoff. It certainly can be done by competent air crew but timing would be critical.
In answer to can you see a fighter sized target at 40km the answer is basically no. If you know exactly where to look with a radar lock and hud queuing a fighter sized target is a pinhead at 20 km.

25th May 2021, 11:40

Wow, Kudos! Can we have a translation of this?

25th May 2021, 11:47
Apparently it is ATC (controller and supervisor) who is saying it's their recommendation that the RYR flight lands in Minsk.

So if we are to believe this, they were not intercepted or forced to go to Minsk.

25th May 2021, 11:50
Belarusian official: “I would like to emphasize that according to the transcript of communication between the air traffic control and the crew, Belarusian air traffic controllers did not pressure the Ryanair crew into making the decision. The crew made the decision on its own. The crew received all the necessary priority aid.”
source https://eng.belta.by/society/view/no-pressure-on-ryanair-crew-from-belarus-air-traffic-control-140165-2021/

Of course, the excerpt presented by the Russian TV channel (above) and this official statement backs up the same line of defense: "No one forced them down, it was their own decision"... to reroute from 70 Km to home, to more than 200 km into hostile territory, I have to add.

25th May 2021, 11:51

After the ATC finishes the sentence "for security reasons" he says airport security sent email, than RYR asks if that recommendation to land at MSQ came from RYR, departing port or landing port, ATC says recommendation came from them (it's our recommendation)

By the sound of it, Belarus ATC recommended RYR to land at MSQ and they obliged. Whether there is more to this, I guess we will find out soon

25th May 2021, 12:06
PS, I missed that one: "The Investigative Committee branch of Minsk's Oktyabrsky District has opened a criminal case into a knowingly false report about danger in line with part 1, Article 340 of the Criminal Code."


25th May 2021, 12:25
Now one thing needs to be clear, the article might be true, but have in mind that this is a regime where the press is controlled by Lukashenko, unless you do what he wants, you risk prison or death penalty. So I would not really believe a word they say, until we have some independent verifiable proof such as unedited ATC recording, radar images etc.

Until then assume any official Belarussian news source is telling you only 10% of the truth.

It was sarcasm. Now they try to cover up any wrongdoing - like endangering a passenger flight by issuing false alarms. They will come with a scapegoat soon.

LE: Oh, it was an e-mail!! :))))
On 24 May 2021, director of the Department of Aviation of the Ministry of Transport of Belarus Artyom Sikorsky read out an email letter sent to Minsk airport on 23 May. This message was signed by "Hamas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas) soldiers" and included demands to Israel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel) to "cease fire in Gaza strip (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_strip)" (see 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Israel%E2%80%93Palestine_crisis)) and for the European Union to stop the support of Israel. It was threatened to blow up the plane over Vilnius, according to this letter.[27] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryanair_Flight_4978#cite_note-onliner.pressconf2405-27) Chancellor of Germany (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chancellor_of_Germany) Angela Merkel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel) called the Belarusian explanation "completely implausible".[28] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryanair_Flight_4978#cite_note-28) Hamas denied it was in any way connected to the incident.[29] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryanair_Flight_4978#cite_note-29)[30] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryanair_Flight_4978#cite_note-30)
On 25 May 2021, Belarusian Department of Aviation published the transcript of radio communications between the Belarusian air traffic control and the FR 4978 pilots. According to that transcript, Belarusian flight operator originally told the pilots that they "have information from special services" about the bomb on board, later he said that the bombing alert was received by "several airports" and finally told the pilots that landing in Minsk "is our recommendations".[31] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryanair_Flight_4978#cite_note-31)

source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryanair_Flight_4978

25th May 2021, 12:33
It seems strange how easy it was for ATC to make an aircraft divert from it's route
We only have one short clip of the recording. We have no idea of the timing of this discussion. Was it in the beginning, was it at the very point of turn, was there any contact with the FJ etc.
What if, after this exchange, the RYR was contacted by atc/FJ and the recommendation was repeated with weight?
All I hear is that the crew asks who made the recommendation and ATC says they did. What happened next?

I would NOT go into distances with children of the magenta line as no one knows the entire story.

Mister Geezer
25th May 2021, 12:35
I would wait for the transcript that is not published by Belarus before casting any aspersions. The Belarusians will naturally be pushing the narrative that the crew were not forced to land at UMMS and could edit any audio transcript to better fit this.

There had to be compelling reasons for the crew to elect to land at UMMS. They started their duty in EYVI and were likely to be very familiar with the airport. Why divert to an airport that is off the company route network which has no handling support and is likely to be unfamiliar to both pilots, when what is likely to have been their home base, is closer?

Less Hair
25th May 2021, 12:49
I don't seem to understand: First Belarus reported that their President had ordered the diversion to Minsk and now they say the crew requested it?

25th May 2021, 12:55
The Belarusians will naturally be pushing the narrative that the crew were not forced to land at UMMS and could edit any audio transcript to better fit this.

The (Bela)Russians will push beyond the common-sense limits any narrative which will create more chaos and deception in own public's minds, the coarse, the better. It doesn't have to be convincing, the idea is to proliferate all kinds of aberrations so that people can resign to conclusions like "we will never know the truth", "everyone lies", "anything it's possible" and so on - "Active Measures" 101.

25th May 2021, 14:33
If the Belarus government want the claim this incident wasn’t a hijacking, simply release Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend unharmed.

25th May 2021, 15:11
So what horse did Russia have in this event? If there really were four Russian Spetznaz/FSB/OMON other special ops, why were they there and why taking action on behalf of Belarus?
Testing the waters for future kidnappings of Russian citizens abroad. Just like Russia tested a tougher approach against protesters in Belarus a few months ago (Russia even sent their TV anchors there), and then applied it on its own soil.

I don't seem to understand: First Belarus reported that their President had ordered the diversion to Minsk and now they say the crew requested it?
It's the usual "unpredictive past" in a dictatorship. It helps create confusion over what really happened.

If the Belarus government want the claim this incident wasn’t a hijacking, simply release Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend unharmed.
The weird thing is, releasing them will not change anything in respect to the hijacking. The offense here was forcing the plane to land, not arresting a wanted person after it was on the ground. If they forced it to land illegally, it remains a hijacking even if they release these people. If they didn't force, but merely tricked it into landing at MSQ, it is not a hijacking.

All Belarus needs to do is to find a non-government scapegoat who sent in the bomb threat. Assuming of course there were no direct threats by the ATC or the MIG fighter jet against the plane.

25th May 2021, 16:30
Anyone surprised that facts don't really match the narrative ?

Most likely they were tricked into landing in Minsk via fake bomb threat. There might have been a plan B (with operatives in the plane) or a plan C (with the MIG) but it never went that far.

25th May 2021, 16:39
This web page has published what they claim to be a full transcript of the ATC/pilot conversation:
https://meduza.io/en/news/2021/05/25/belarusian-transport-ministry-publishes-transcript-of-conversation-between-ryanair-pilot-and-minsk-dispatcher (look for "read more")

I copied the transcript here to make it easier:

The pilot seems really sceptical, keeps asking where the information is coming from. He asks what level of alarm is being raised, and when ATC says "red" he finally agrees to divert to Minsk.

Less Hair
25th May 2021, 17:16
Has NATO shared anything public about this flight? I would prefer their transscript.

25th May 2021, 19:23
Wow, thank you ATC Watcher!
So: just after being handed off from UKBU to UMMV, they were prompted about the alleged bomb alert. At 09:47:12z, about 19 minutes later, they declared the emergency, being at 54.052917,25.346951 (FR24 data), less than 25 Km to the Lithuanian border, still at 390. No interceptor mentioned whatsoever. And for the whole exchange, the crew doesn't appear to buy Belarusian stories at all. Apparently - as anticipated, and normal - they tried to get in contact with the company. Minks even gave them a (company??) frequency in... Vilnius (131.750). After 3 minutes, the pilot asks about the severity of the threat (were they in contact with someone?) and requests a hold, but after another 2-3 minutes they declare "MAYDAY" and divert to Minsk.
Is this the whole thing? Odd :/

25th May 2021, 19:33
The whole English statement of the Belorussian CAA is quoted here because their site gives constantly error 508 (due to high traffic) and could fail totally at any time:

Department of Aviation in accordance with the requirements of Standards 5.2.5 and 5.3.1 of Annex 17 to the Convention on the International Civil Aviation, the Department of Aviation informs about the fact of an act of unlawful interference in the activities of civil aviation on the territory of the Republic of Belarus.

On May 23, 2021, a written message with the following content in English was sent to the e-mail of the National Airport Minsk from the e-mail address protonmail.com:

“We, Hamas soldiers, demand that Israel cease fire in the Gaza Strip. We demand that the European Union abandon its support for Israel in this war. We know that the participants of Delphi Economic Forum are returning home on May 23 via flight FR4978. A bomb has been planted onto this aircraft. If you don’t meet our demands the bomb will explode on May 23 over Vilnius. Allahu Akbar.”

Taking into account the seriousness of the threat received, the information from the National Airport Minsk was forwarded to the relevant air traffic control services of Belaeronavigatsia State-Owned-Enterprise.

In accordance with the requirements of the Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention and the National Program for the Protection of Civil Aviation from Acts of Unlawful Interference in the Republic of Belarus, a response actions mechanism was put into effect in connection with acts of unlawful interference in the civil aviation activity.

The flight FR4978 en route Athens (Greece) - Vilnius (Lithuania), operated on a Boeing 737-800 by Ryanair. The aircraft departed from Athens airport at 07.10 UTC (10.10 Belarusian time), entered into the Republic of Belarus airspace under the control of the Minsk ACC at 09.30 UTC (12.30 Belarusian time). The entry point into the airspace of the Minsk FIR was SOMAT.

After establishing communication between the Belarusian air traffic controller and the crew of the aircraft, the crew was immediately informed about the incoming threat related to the possible presence of an explosive device on the aircraft board , and the flight crew was recommended to land at an alternate aerodrome at the National Airport Minsk. The crew several times clarified the sources of obtaining information and was informed that the initial information about the threats was sent to the National Airport Minsk.

Before this, the Minsk ACC Supervisor tried several times to call the representative office of Ryanair in Lithuania using the phone number provided by the aircraft crew, but he could not manage to contact any of the airline representatives.

Having received and clarified the information, the FR4978 crew in accordance with the established international requirements at 09.47 UTC (12.47 Belarusian time) set the transponder code 7700 on the aircraft board (indicating the presence of an emergency) and in the radiotelephone mode requested assistance with the phrase "MAYDAY". After that, the crew, taking into account the requirements of Standard 3.7.2 Annex 2 to the Chicago Convention, announced that they had decided to land at the National Airport Minsk.

Taking into account the crew decision, the air traffic control authorities of the Republic of Belarus provided them with all the necessary priority assistance. A contingency plan was put into effect at the National Airport Minsk, all relevant services of the airport and other interested state bodies were notified and alerted in the prescribed manner.

The landing of the aircraft of the flight FR4978 at the National Airport Minsk was completed at 10.15 UTC (13.15 Belarusian time).

After landing, the aircraft, in accordance with the established international and national requirements in aviation security, was assigned to a special isolated parking lot, where the corresponding actions for inspection and interrogation were carried out in relation to the aircraft, crew, passengers, baggage, cargo, mail.

These actions are provided and must be performed by states in accordance with the Standards set out in Chapter 5 of Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention.

By 13.20 UTC all the procedures established by international and national legislation had been completed and the aircraft could take off, however the flight FR4978 departed from National Airport Minsk at 17.48 UTC and at 18.27 UTC made a safe landing at Vilnius airport.

According to preliminary assessments of the Department of Aviation, taking into account the requirements of international legislation, the air traffic control staff of Belaeronavigatsia State-Owned-Enterprise, the aircraft crew, the forces and services involved in the National Airport Minsk in the described situation acted in accordance with the requirements prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

At present in the Republic of Belarus, to consider the circumstances of the event an ad-hoc commission has been created.

As an evidence of the fact that the pilot-in-command took his own decision to land at National Airport Minsk without any pressure from Belarussian side, we published the extract of ATC-pilot radiotelephony.

The Department of Aviation also wants to assure that the Belarusian aviation authorities, aviation organizations and the relevant law enforcement agencies of the state have taken and will continue to take the necessary measures and actions provided for by international and national legislation aimed at ensuring reliable protection of civil aviation from acts of unlawful interference.

For further consideration of the circumstances the Department of Aviation has invited representatives of ICAO, IATA, EASA, and EU and USA Civil Aviation Authorities.

Выписка из магнитофонной записи фразеологии радиообмена экипаж-диспетчер за 23.05.2021 г, рейс RYR1TZ РДЦ Запад

Pilot: 09:28:58 Minsk, Good day, RYR 1TZ, FL390 approaching SOMAT

ATC:09:29:04 RYR 1TZ, Minsk Control, good afternoon, radar contact.

ATC: 09:30:49 RYR 1TZ, Minsk

Pilot: Yes, go ahead.

ATC: RYR 1TZ for your information, we have information from special services that you have bomb on board and it can be activated over Vilnius.

Pilot: 1TZ Standby.

Pilot. 09:31:17: Ok RYR 1TZ could you repeat the message?

ATC: RYR 1TZ, I say again we have information from special services that you have bomb on board. That bomb can be activated over Vilnius.

Pilot: Roger that, standby.

ATC: 09:31:42: RYR 1TZ for security reason we recommend you to land at UMMS.

Pilot: Ok...that..it..understood give us alternate please.

Pilot:09:32:59: RYR 1TZ


Pilot: The bomb....direct message, where did it come from? Where did you have information about it from?

ATC: RYR 1TZ stanby please.

ATC: 09:33:42: RYR 1TZ

Pilot: Go ahead.

ATC: RYR 1TZ airport security stuff informed they received e-mail.

Pilot: Roger, Vilnius airport security stuff or from Greece?

ATC: RYR 1TZ this e-mail was shared to several airports.

Pilot: Roger, standby.

Pilot:09:34:49: Radar, RYR 1TZ.


Pilot: Could you give us frequency for (unreadable) company so that we would be able to (unreadable).

ATC: RYR 1TZ say again what frequency do you need.

Pilot: We just need to quawk with the operation of the company, if there any frequency for that (unreadable).

ATC. Do you need RYR operation frequency?

Pilot: That is correct 1TZ.

ATC: Standby please.

ATC: RYR 1TZ ,Standby please

Pilot: Standing-by.

Pilot:09:39:30: RYR 1TZ Any adverts?

ATC: RYR 1TZ Standby, waiting for the information.

Pilot: Could you say again that I have to call for the airport that authorities ...(unreadable) to divert to..

ATC: RYR 1TZ I read you THREE, say again please.

Pilot:09:39:57: Radar, RYR 1TZ .

ATC : RYR 1TZ ,Go.

Pilot: Can you say again the IATA code of the airport that authorities recommended us to divert to?

ATC: RYR 1TZ roger, standby please.

Pilot: OK, I give you (unreadable) can you say again IATA code of the airport that authorities have recommended us to divert to?

ATC: RYR 1TZ Standby.

Pilot: Standby, Roger.

ATC :09:41:00: RYR 1TZ .

Pilot: Go ahead.

ATC: IATA code is MSQ.

Pilot: can you say again please?


Pilot: MSQ, thanks.

Pilot: 09:41:58: RYR 1TZ Again, this recommendation to divert to Minsk where did it come from?Where did it come from?Company? Did it come from departure airport authorities or arrival airport authorities?

ATC: RYR 1TZ this is our recommendations.

Pilot: can you say again?

ATC: RYR 1TZ this is our recommendations.

Pilot : unreadable.

Pilot:Did you say that your recommendation?

ATC: RYR 1TZ , Charlie-Charlie.

ATC: 09.42.49: RYR 1TZ we have ground stuff frequency for Vilnius 131.750

Pilot. 131.75 and we have contact...(unreadable).

ATC:09:44:38 RYR 1TZ advise your decision please?

Pilot: Radar ,RYR 1TZ

ATC:RYR 1TZ advise your decision please.

Pilot; 09:44:52: I need answer the question what is the code of the (unreadable) green, yellow or amber red.

ATC: Standby.

ATC:09:45:09 RYR 1TZ they say code is red.

Pilot: Roger that, in that case we request holding at present position.

ATC: RYR 1TZ Roger, hold over your position, mantain FL390 turns at own discretion.

Pilot; Ok holding at our discretion at present position mantaining FL390 RYR 1TZ.

Pilot:09:47:12: RYR 1TZ we are declaring an emergency MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY RYR 1TZ. our intentions would be to divert to Minsk airport

ATC: RYR 1TZ MAYDAY, Roger.Standby for vectors.

Pilot: Standby RYR 1TZ .

Pilot: 09:48:10 RYR 1TZ request descent to 10000 feet.

ATC: RYR 1TZ , descend FL100.

Pilot: descend (unreadable) RYR 1TZ .

ATC:RYR 1TZ from present position cleared direct point KOLOS : Kilo Oscar Lima Oskar Sierra.

Pilot: Direct to KOLOS RYR 1TZ.

ATC:09:50:15 RYR 1TZ how do you read me?

Pilot: I read you 5 RYR 1TZ .

ATC: Roger.

ATC:09:50:24: RYR 1TZ do you need any aerodrome details and weather information?

Pilot : We can (unreadable )ATIS from Minsk ...enough.

ATC: RYR 1TZ do you need ATIS frequency?

Pilot: We got it.09:It is 128.850, 1 TZ.

ATC:09:51:50: RYR 1TZ

Pilot: 1TZ , go ahead.

ATC: RYR 1TZ KOLOS 2H arrival, RW in use 31R and if you need vectors advise.

Pilot: Ok, KOLOS.. could you say the (unreadable).

ATC: KOLOS 2H arrival.

Pilot: KOLOS 2H arrival, RW 31R, RYR 1TZ

ATC: And ATIS frequency is 128.850

Pilot: 28.85.

ATC:09:52:29: RYR 1TZ and advise passengers on board and if any dangerous goods on board.

Pilot: No dangerous goods, standby...and we need 130 to avoid.

Pilot:09:53:00 RYR 1TZ turning heading 130 to avoid.

ATC: RYR 1TZ roger heading 130 report clear of weather.

Pilot: WILCO.

Pilot :09:54:45: RYR 1TZ persons on board is 133.

ATC: Persons on board 133 copied thank you.

ATC:09:55:33 RYR 1TZ when ready report estimating time of arrival.

Pilot: 09:56:48: RYR 1TZ request descend 9000 feet.

ATC: RYR 1TZ descend FL90.

Pilot. Descend FL90, RYR 1TZ .

ATC: 09:57:12: RYR 1TZ now contact Minsk approach on 125.9.

Pilot: 125.9, RYR 1TZ

Pilot: 09:57:22 Approach, Hallo, RTZ descending to FL 90 on the heading 130

ATC: RYR1TZ Minsk Approach good day expect vectoring for ILS RW 31R descend to altitude 6000 feet QNH 1010

Pilot: 6000 feet QNH 1010 vectors for ILS 31R, RYR1TZ

ATC: RYR1TZ turn left heading 070

Pilot: Heading 090 RYR1TZ

Pilot: (unreadable) Confirm ILS 31R

ATC: RYR1TZ Affirm ILS Approach RW 31R

Pilot: 31R thanks

ATC: RYR1TZ do you need any data information about Minsk 2?

Pilot: Stand by

Pilot: RYR1TZ request heading 060 (unreadable) turn to avoid

ATC: RYR1TZ cleared heading 060

Pilot: 060 degrees (unreadable)

Pilot: To correction that’s may be (unreadable) 1TZ

ATC: 1TZ Roger

Pilot: RYR1TZ actually request heading 040 for avoid for 20 miles may be (unreadable) 1TZ

ATC: RYR1TZ heading 040

Pilot: Heading 040 RYR1TZ (unreadable) 1TZ

Pilot: RYR1TZ request heading 030 to avoid for 10 miles

ATC: RYR1TZ heading 030

Pilot: Heading 030 RYR1TZ

ATC: 10:01:14 RYR1TZ do you need any assistance upon arrival?

Pilot: Negative RYR1TZ


Pilot: 10:02:46 RYR1TZ are you aware of nature of our (unreadable) urgenty

ATC: RYR1TZ yes we have information

Pilot: Roger (unreadable) location (unreadable) the aircraft should be parked on in the airport (unreadable) doing this event

ATC: 10:03:15 RYR1TZ say again your message please

Pilot: RYR1TZ Do you have (unreadable) a nature the civic area in the airport where the aircraft should be parked on in this kind of event?

ATC: RYR1TZ yes we have special area

Pilot: Roger that RYR1TZ in this case no other assistance needed

ATC: RYR1TZ roger

Pilot: 10:04:14 RYR1TZ request

ATC: Go ahead

Pilot: Just wanted to know if our company was informed about about this case about this event

ATC: RYR1TZ stand by

Pilot: RYR1TZ (unreadable) сomplete and now we are ready to commence approach

ATC: RYR1TZ Roger turn right heading 080

Pilot: 080 degrees RYR1TZ

ATC: RYR1TZ we will try to pass information to your company during 5 minutes

ATC: 10:06:45 RYR1TZ descend to altitude 4000 feet

Pilot: Descending 4000 feet RYR1TZ

Pilot: RYR1TZ Confirm QNH


Pilot: 1009 QNH RYR1TZ

ATC: RYR1TZ turn left heading 050 descend to altitude 3000 feet

Pilot: Left heading 050 descending 3000 feet RYR1TZ

ATC: 10:10:23 RYR1TZ turn left heading 010 cleared ILS Approach RW 31R report establish localizer

Pilot: Turn left heading 010 cleared ILS 31R report establish RYR1TZ

ATC: 10:11:21 RYR1TZ you’ve just passed the final

ATC: 10:12:26 RYR1TZ do you have contact localizer?

Pilot: Affirm

ATC: RYR1TZ contact Tower 130,4

Pilot: 130,4 RYR1TZ

25th May 2021, 19:34
The transcript reads pretty plausible; quite sneaky to say "you have bomb on board and it can be activated over Vilnius," so the pilot is less likely to continue to the destination.

25th May 2021, 19:50
I feel bad for the pilots, because they are obviously hesitating, but it seems like after some discussion in the cockpit they make a decision to ask what status the alert is. If it is "red" - that's your job on the line. They don't seem to have got much information from Vilnius Ground, so they have to trust the only ATC they can contact, and if the controller says it is status red, you have to react...

...which underlines just how low Belarus authorities were prepared to go. They behaved in a way that goes against everything that trust between pilots and controllers is built on.

On top of that their cover story is that Hamas sent them a threatening email. A bunch of schoolkids could have come up with a better one.

25th May 2021, 20:09

Most probably that was the trigger, quite explicable given the situation and the viciously induced stress and confusion, a lame try otherwise, as the whole plot. The Belarus ATCO sounds like a bad actor begging for the cues. Which most probably happened...

25th May 2021, 20:18
Agreed. So sinister that they keep having to call "stand by" and ask questions, presumably from an intelligence officer, instead of having all the facts at their finger tips.

WillowRun 6-3
25th May 2021, 20:50
ICAO's social media account on the Tw platform first condemned the action(s) by Belarus (on May 23) and yesterday announced convening of an "urgent" meeting of the ICAO Council.
Here are the posts, copied verbatim from that official ICAO account:

"ICAO's Council President has called an urgent meeting of the 36 diplomatic representatives to the ICAO Council, on 27 May, on the incident involving Ryanair Flight FR4978 in Belarus airspace on 23 May 2021. We will post further updates as available."

"ICAO is strongly concerned by the apparent forced landing of a Ryanair flight and its passengers, which could be in contravention of the Chicago Convention. We look forward to more information being officially confirmed by the countries and operators concerned."

25th May 2021, 21:05
Clever :mad: they thought about this quite carefully, "activated over Vilnius". This was not a forced demand to divert to Minsk like we have been led to believe. The PIC made that decision based on the information (lies) available. There is a Russian minister on record having publicly celebrated Belarus's brilliant execution. The Russian Foreign Ministry should be asked by ICAO to clarify what he meant.and to understand if Russia played a part in this.

25th May 2021, 21:55
"activated over Vilnius" - So what kind of bomb did they think it could be then? Some kind of "smart bomb" that would activate at some specific coordinates?

So you are told there is a bomb that is going to activate over Vilnius, what is then the logic to take a much longer flight to Minsk?
How could this be perceived as the safer option?

I am just trying to understand the logical thinking process behind this. 70 km or 200 km, supposed to explode in 70 km, so let's do 200 km instead.

Yes, that all makes perfect sense.

25th May 2021, 21:57
It could ,of course be that the Belarus ATC were innocent parties to this `game`,and only doing what they are supposed to do if informed of a `bomb threat`...OTOH it did look like a `well-prepared` arrival party in Minsk,and perhaps not a great rush to get off the jet.....

25th May 2021, 22:00
So you are told there is a bomb that is going to activate over Vilnius, what is then the logic to take a much longer flight to Minsk?

Well there's certainly wouldn't be much logic or common sense in continuing to Vilnius if you have been specifically told that there's a bomb on board that can be "activated over Vilnius".

Now as for if or how any such device could be credible, that's probably something for an expert in that field and not something to be discussed here.

25th May 2021, 22:11
I would also expect there will be an investigation into the Security systems in place in Athens prior to departure,with respect to the `others ` who left at Minsk....

25th May 2021, 22:19
Allegedly, some, or all, of the other passengers who left had final destinations In Belarus anyway. There are no direct Athens-Minsk flights that I can find.
If this was all pre-planned, why would Belarus leave it until the flight was almost out of their airspace before acting?

25th May 2021, 22:39

If this was all pre-planned, why would Belarus leave it until the flight was almost out of their airspace before acting?

They didn't though did they?

If the transcript is to be believed...:hmm::

The flight first made contact with Belarus ATC at the boundary inbound at 0929 UTC.

ATC first mentioned the bomb just two minutes later at about 0931 UTC....

The flight continued northwards with the discussion/request for clarification continuing, culminating in ATC calling it a red threat at 0945 UTC

It sounds more to me as if it was trap set just waiting to be tripped pretty much the moment they entered the FIR....

25th May 2021, 22:55
Belarus has form in shooting down civil aircraft. Two American balloonists competing in the international Gordon Bennett long-distance gas balloon race were killed in 1995 after their balloon entered Belarus airspace without permission. They were intercepted, identified by a fighter and then shot down. Ignoring the ATC 'suggestion' to divert would be risky, especially since a MiG had supposedly been launched to intercept the flight, not the the crew seems to have known that.

26th May 2021, 00:04
Supposing the PIC did not know he had a Belarusian dissident as a passenger, were his reactions really out of the ordinary? On the other hand, supposing he was aware that he had a Belarusian dissident as a passenger, could he, would he have acted differently?

26th May 2021, 01:00
my speculation is, that what made them to declare an emergency, to make 180 turn and follow the order to land in Minsk, was threat from the KGB agents on board.
All evidece points to no agent on board (see in particular Belingacat research on the subject) - the people who left where merely some passengers travelling to Minsk in the first place.
In any case no-one has mentioned any disturbance in the cabin whatsoever (execept for some "rumors").
The pilots were tricked into landing in Minsk, which they did on their own accord. End of the story. A pretty crude con but not much to do with a highjacking at gun point.

26th May 2021, 01:04

He most likely was not.
Even Protasevich didn't realise what was going on until the plane was on the ground,
But in any case given the circumptances there was not much more the pilots could (and should) do.

Max Tow
26th May 2021, 01:49
"ATC: RYR 1TZ this e-mail was shared to several airports."

And these airports who also received the email were...? That should be easy enough to check as presumably they weren't all in Belarus....

Amazing how these ludicrously amateur cover stories (think Skripal assassins were simple tourists who couldn't find Salisbury Cathedral) seem to be tossed in to create an alternative truth. Presumably it meets the needs of the home audience?

Mister Geezer
26th May 2021, 04:56
A quick look at CFMU this morning reveals Belavia is still operating to numerous EU destinations. It would seem that at least one EU member state is obviously not in favour of a blanket ban. Cyprus perhaps given the tourism links?

26th May 2021, 05:03
The problem seems to be that the EU wants a ban, but has not yet a legal instrument to enact it. Of course, they could simply put Belavia on the unsafe black list, but that would be using a flight safety instrument for political reasons and they do not want that.

26th May 2021, 06:36
So, to which airports was the message shared to? ATC states several airports. Shouldn't be too hard to confirm those other airports. Oh wait, there were no other airports...
Not to mention the first report of "Lukashenka made an unequivocal order for the plane to make a U-turn" which now reads "the captain made an independent decision to turn".

This stinks to high heavens.

26th May 2021, 07:29

At the start of the ATC exchange the controller tells the captain the bomb will be "activated over Vilnius", then a few minutes later ATC tell the captain "for security reason we recommend you to land at UMMS."...

Now I guess in theory you could claim the captain made an independent decision but he/she is very much being steered into making the decision that the authorities wanted.

26th May 2021, 07:38
I hear what you are saying, it's the Lukashenka part thats annoying (as was the original statement by BY authorities). In essence: they changed the statement over night.

ATC Watcher
26th May 2021, 08:17
Assuming the R/T transcript is correct and complete.( Big "if" )
From an ATC point of view, looks like the controller is just a parrot mainly repeating orders from someone else behind him .

That part I find interesting :
ATC: 09.42.49: RYR 1TZ we have ground stuff frequency for Vilnius 131.750
Pilot. 131.75 and we have contact...(unreadable).
ATC:09:44:38 RYR 1TZ advise your decision please?
Pilot: Radar ,RYR 1TZ
ATC:RYR 1TZ advise your decision please.

The unreadable is the interesting missing part of course. and the subsequent pressure from the controller to ask for his decision, this is definitively not an ATC based request, but a request from someone directly behind him fearing the aircraft will enter Lithuanian airspace before a decision will be made .

Lastly : they start their Press release with : Department of Aviation in accordance with the requirements of Standards 5.2.5 and 5.3.1 of Annex 17 to the Convention on the International Civil Aviation, the Department of Aviation informs about the fact of an act of unlawful interference in the activities of civil aviation on the territory of the Republic of Belarus.
But there is no mention of the forcefully removal passengers from the aircraft which is in contradiction with the same ICAO Chicago Convention ..

In the meantime EASA issued a Safety Info Bulletin asking EU airlines to avoid overflying Minsk FIR until further notice, an indication they did not buy the Belarus press release story either.

26th May 2021, 08:27
that would be using a flight safety instrument for political reasons and they do not want that.
That would set a bad precedent, wouldn't it... ? :ugh:

26th May 2021, 08:30
But there is no mention of the forcefully removal passengers from the aircraft which is in contradiction with the same ICAO Chicago Convention ..

Are you refering to this incident (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/aeromexico-flight-diverted-passenger-arrested/) ?

26th May 2021, 08:51
Still no videos of the MIG-29.

In case of unlawful interference shouldn't it be two FJ?

Mäx Reverse
26th May 2021, 08:51
Could someone with adequate knowledge confirm if FR does use ACARS or any other kind of operational datalink? Reason for me asking is I hear them inquire about destination WX with ATC ever so often…

Beeing unable to communicate with company OCC in this special situation and having to rely on local information only would be a major contributing factor to the outcome ‚as is‘ in my point of view…

Banana Joe
26th May 2021, 08:53
No they don't. One day hopefully.

ATC Watcher
26th May 2021, 08:53
Are you referring to this incident (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/aeromexico-flight-diverted-passenger-arrested/) ?
Yes and no . Here there was a denial of entry of the flight into the US and a warrant for an arrest as per a convention signed between Canada and the US regarding immigration. There is a bi-lateral immigration agreement between 2 States , not really an ICAO Convention breach on freedom of movement when overflying a third state as it is the case here. .

Less Hair
26th May 2021, 09:12
Don't blame the crew. They were trapped. Should they have ignored ATC in a situation like that? With a planeload of passengers?
We still don't know how they ended up turning around and flying way longer instead of continuing descending right to their destination. I agree that we are fed conflicting information for the sake of it and to blur the picture.

26th May 2021, 09:16
I don't - so does probably Mäx.
What I am asking:
Do operations striped down for max. cost efficiency and thereby lacking certain technical and personal ressources have contributed?

Timmy Tomkins
26th May 2021, 09:20
Less Hair

Not a question of blame and we simply can't say without more info, BUT, in the LHS you are in command and need to make hard judgements quite often. There are times when ignoring ATC would most definately be justified.

26th May 2021, 09:23
I don’t think airline pilots, certainly not in Europe, ever have had to worry about being “tricked” by ATC. Up until now we all assumed that ATC would be there to help in a situation like this, it’s not part of our training or experience to suspect ATC instructions or recommendations in a security event. So in my humble opinion, most reasonable pilots would have done exactly the same as these guys did, why would you further complicate your already uncomfortable situation by playing spy games??

And yes, Ryanair, like all EU airlines, have a 24/7 OCC with trained security assessors.

26th May 2021, 09:40

While what you say is correct in Europe, in my experience, that is not always the case in some other parts of the world, for example in Africa, the Middle East and India. This is particularly the case when wars and civil conflicts occur, or even with simple plain incompetence on the part of the ATC organisation in recognising diplomatic overflight clearances, etc. In the past, I and colleagues have had to blag our way through some awkward situations.

However, as you say, this is not something you might expect in Europe. I have no idea what the Ryan Air crew had to deal with since all that we read and hear about this incident is so (deliberately?) muddled. And even with the help of 24/7 OCC security assessors it would not have been easy to make the right decisions.

My sympathies are with the crew, at least they got the aircraft safely on the ground, even if it wasn't the optimum place.

shared reality
26th May 2021, 09:40
Well, a lot of you guys seem to swallow this so called authentic ATC transcript whole.... I would love to hear a transcript from a credible source (NATO?).

Anyhow, this crew is well within EYVI VHF coverage, and had ample time to call "friendly" sources for info on box 2.
As for the "the bomb will detonate over Vilnius" part, I am no EOD expert, but I have never heard of a crude device in an aircraft bomb threat situation that is supposed to go off at a specific location.. (pressure, time etc yes, but this?).

A call to Vilnius control to see whether they had received any so called threat email, and then land at the nearest suitable airport (EYVI in this case), or if in doubt go to Kaunas in Lithuania, which is way closer than Minsk.
Again, we do not know what has actually being said and so forth, but based on the info we have, I simply do not understand why they did not press on into friendly airspace and landed either at VNO or KAU.

26th May 2021, 09:43

Well said. The fact that the captain decided to divert in this way suggests that it was considered the safest course of action. Any crew would want to continue so there had to be something else to prioritise a diversion. We still don’t know what exactly was communicated to the crew or when.

Regarding contact with the company, say by satcom or ACARS, may not have helped in this situation IMHO. I hope the international and aviation authorities will treat this with the severity it deserves. Now the USA is back in the fold maybe it will happen.

26th May 2021, 10:03
Lukashenka just had a speech on this, a few bullets:

1. regarding the emailed threat: The President noted that in the case of the Athens-Vilnius flight, the signal to mine the plane was received from abroad - from Switzerland. Moreover, the message arrived at the airports of Athens, Vilnius and Minsk at the same time.
2. regarding the sender of the email: "Hamas, not Hamas - it doesn't matter today. "
3. regarding the order to make the plane land: "“The point is not only and not so much in this fighter, which was raised absolutely in accordance with all the rules. The point is also what we are not talking about, that at my order all the protection systems of the nuclear power plant, including air defense, were raised by alarm, instantly put on full alert. According to my official duties, I had to protect people, I thought about the security of the country. And understand a simple thing: if the plane was mined, and there would be a desire for terrorists to blow it up, we would hardly But I could not allow the plane to fall on the heads of our people. After that ... We didn’t forget it… These two guys died while taking the plane away from residential buildings. So don’t reproach me. I acted legally, protecting my people . This will continue to be so, "the Belarusian leader emphasized. "

source: https://www.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-prokommentiroval-intsident-s-samoletom-afiny-vilnjus-i-raskryl-novye-podrobnosti-443021-2021/

To put it together: even though the email was published and claimed to be from Hamas, now it is not from Hamas. Also, the email is claimed to be received simultaneously in Athens and Vilnius, but there are no information of this is there? The Greek and Lithuanian authorities have not stated it have they? And as third, what can be interpreted is that Lukashenka did order to make the landing happen.

Less Hair
26th May 2021, 10:31
It already went up to UN general secretary level. This will not just fade away.

26th May 2021, 11:08
"Why not get more information before you divert into a regime ruled by a dictator with a very powerful secret police."

I'm afraid that the kind of political regime in force and the power of the respective local police of the states you're overflying is not generally a part of pre-flight preparation in intraeuropean flights. I think you guys are reading way too much into the crew's actions in this particular case. As BBK said, other areas of operations may prompt crews to consider non-aeronautical factors in their decision making, but that's not really been the case (until now) in most of Europe (with the exception of Eastern Ukraine).

26th May 2021, 11:30
A Hamas bomb threat against an insignificant, but specific Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, exactly when overlying Belarus, which coincidentally carries a wanted Belarusian member of the opposition, coincidentally being advised not to land at the nearest airport (being destination Vilnius), but in Minsk.

I have constructed better lies, trying to foil my parents, when I was a teenager...

Hot 'n' High
26th May 2021, 11:31
It already went up to UN general secretary level. This will not just fade away.

Indeed, one would hope not. Sadly tho, I suspect, in the same way as Skripal and MH17, it will all end in nothing.

I know the Dutch are now taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights over the MH17 but, in practice, the only people to gain much will be Legal teams. I really don't see Putin getting too worked up about that. As Richard Dangle said at Post #59, "States like Russia, Belarus (and plenty more) don't give a fig about western democratic opinion...the more outrage they get the better. Their audience is internal...ie their own people.".

I'm not saying don't do what you can ...... it's just as 2unlimited said way back in Post #38, the end result of all these sorts of things is "not a lot".

tubby linton
26th May 2021, 11:40
This makes interesting reading regarding the legalities.
https://www.lawfareblog.com/belarus-and-hijacking-ryanair-flight-fr4978-preliminary-international-law-analysis (https://www.lawfareblog.com/belarus-and-hijacking-ryanair-flight-fr4978-preliminary-international-law-analysisNews)
News (https://www.lawfareblog.com/belarus-and-hijacking-ryanair-flight-fr4978-preliminary-international-law-analysisNews) broke on Sunday about a mid-air diversion of a plane flying over eastern Europe, followed by an emergency landing. This itself would be mildly significant, but when the facts as reported are known, the story attains wider and more dramatic importance about several issues: the freedom of political protest, authoritarian rule in isolationist parts of the world and the rule of law in international affairs.

According to media reports, (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57219860)on the afternoon of May 24, 2021, Ryanair Flight FR4978 was on route from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania. The aircraft—bearing tail number SP-RSW—was registered in Poland. One of its passengers was Roman Protasevich (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/23/world/europe/roman-protasevich.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur)—a Belarusian journalist and dissident who played a key role in protests against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in the wake of the contested 2020 presidential elections. Sofia Sapega (https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/vilnius-university-says-its-student-travelling-with-protasevich-also-detained-2021-05-24/), a Russian law student and his partner, was travelling with him.

Two officers of the Belarusian secret police, the KGB, were also onboard. Once the plane was in Belarusian airspace, those officers told the pilot of Flight FR4978 that there was an explosive device on board, and that an immediate emergency landing was required. At this point, a Belarusian Air Force MiG-29 appeared alongside and “escorted” the aircraft—not to the nearest airport in Vilnius, but to Minsk, Belarus. On landing, Protasevich and Sapega were detained. Six hours later, Flight FR4978 was allowed to resume transit to Vilnius—minus six passengers on its original manifest, including Protasevich and Sapega. Certain reports have offered harrowing (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/belarus-forces-vilnius-bound-ryanair-plane-land-detain-blogger-2021-05-23/) accounts of Protasevich’s reaction. Told the aircraft had been diverted: he shook and held his head in his hands. While being led away in Minsk, he was reported to have said, “I’ll get the death penalty here.”

There was, of course, no explosive device on board Flight FR4978. The claim that there was appears to have been a ruse by Belarus to force the aircraft to land in Minsk so that Protasevich and Sapega could be arrested. For its part, Belarus has admitted there was no bomb—but rather than own up to its actions, it has concocted a narrative whereby Hamas made the threat (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/belarus-points-hamas-bomb-threat-plane-diversion-hamas-rejects-claim-2021-05-24/) in order to secure a ceasefire with Israel in Gaza. Given that the actual ceasefire was obtained on May 21 (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/21/hamas-claims-victory-as-gaza-celebrates-ceasefire)—three days before Flight FR4978 took off—this story seems, to put it mildly, wildly implausible.

From the perspective of international law, it is difficult to overstate the seriousness of Belarus’ actions. While international law as a whole is often criticized as vague, unenforceable and prone to manipulation or convenient reinterpretation by powerful actors, not all of it operates that way. Some regimes of international law, by the agreement of states, are quite straightforward. They have clearly defined obligations to defend interests essential to the functioning of international society on a day-to-day basis, combined with appropriate routes for adjudication. One such regime is the network of treaties governing international civil aviation—most notably the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation (https://www.icao.int/publications/Documents/7300_cons.pdf) and the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation (https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%20974/volume-974-I-14118-english.pdf), both of which Belarus is a party to.

In examining those treaties, one can immediately see the outline of a powerful case as to why Belarus’ actions violate international law. Article 1(1)(e) of the Montreal Convention creates an international crime where a person unlawfully and intentionally “communicates information which he knows to be false, thereby endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight.” Secondly, per Article 10 of the Montreal Convention, a state must “in accordance with international and national law, endeavour to take all practicable measures for the purpose of preventing the offenses mentioned in Article 1.”

It follows that, in contriving an emergency landing of Flight FR4978 off the back of a fake bomb threat, Belarus committed an outrageous breach of the Montreal Convention.

In the ordinary course of events, Poland, as the flag-state of the aircraft, or any of the Montreal Convention’s 186 other relevant member states, could bring a case against Belarus before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. But that is precluded in this case by the fact that, on signature, Belarus (then the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic) put in a reservation to Article 14—the Montreal Convention’s dispute settlement provision, which provides for ICJ jurisdiction. Hence, if a state attempted to bring a case against Belarus, the ICJ would most likely dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction (https://www.icj-cij.org/public/files/case-related/126/126-20060203-JUD-01-00-EN.pdf).

But not all avenues are closed. Belarus failed to make a similar reservation to Article 87 of the Chicago Convention, providing that any dispute under that treaty can be referred to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)—the specialized agency of the United Nations (U.N.) charged with coordinating civil air travel—with any decision of the ICAO Council subject to appeal before the ICJ. And, moreover, by breaching Article 10 of the Montreal Convention in persuading Flight FR4978 to land, Belarus appears to have equally breached Article 3bis(b) of the Chicago Convention. That provision provides that in exercising its right to ground an aircraft in transit over its territory, a state can only do so by resorting to “appropriate means consistent with relevant rules of international law.” Poland or any of the other 191 members of the Chicago Convention would conceivably have standing to commence such proceedings.

What we therefore see here is a comparative rarity in international law—a clear breach of two respected international treaties by a state, combined with a clear route to the jurisdiction of an international court or tribunal. The remedy under international law is similarly clear. Poland, as the flag state of the aircraft—and, in international law terms, the victim of Belarus’ unlawful act—is entitled to full reparation. Other states may have similar claims. As the forerunner of the ICJ, the Permanent Court of International Justice, put it in the Chorzów Factory case (https://www.icj-cij.org/public/files/permanent-court-of-international-justice/serie_A/A_17/54_Usine_de_Chorzow_Fond_Arret.pdf) in 1928, this means that Belarus “must, as far as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and reestablish the situation which would, in all probability, would have existed if that had not been committed.”

In bluntly practical terms, this means that Protasevich and Sapega must be released from Belarusian custody and allowed to continue to Vilnius—as they would have done if Belarus had not behaved as it did. That Protasevich is a Belarusian national does not alter this conclusion. For Poland (or any other qualifying state) to be made whole in the Chorzów Factory sense, he must be permitted to leave Belarus. There is precedent for this, with Russia being made subject to similar orders by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at the request of the Netherlands in the Arctic Sunrise case (https://www.itlos.org/fileadmin/itlos/documents/cases/case_no.22/published/C22_Order_221113.pdf) in 2013. That case concerned the interception of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace vessel in the Russian exclusive economic zone with Russian nationals aboard.

Of course, this is merely an early analysis of how one international controversy appears to involve a violation of international law in a manner that can be brought before the ICJ. Various foreign ministries will have commenced their own analyses already, and more articulated cases may well be produced in the days and weeks to come. Some may find grounds for international wrongfulness beyond the civil aviation context—most likely concerning the human rights of Protasevich and Sapega. Of course, this scramble to find an appropriate jurisdictional angle on the case sheds light on one of the persistent weaknesses of international law—its lack of compulsory dispute settlement and enforcement mechanisms. As Lawfare readers know, there is often no real way around this reality: international law is rooted in concepts of voluntarism and cooperation, which are usually the first things to go when dealing with any inter-state dispute.

One thing, however, is clear. Belarus’ decision to ground Flight FR4978 on a pretext to take a dissident and his partner into custody should cause profound disquiet within the international community and invite immediate consequences. The network of agreements governing international civil aviation is rightly seen as one of the most significant achievements of the wave of post-1945 treaty-making that converted international law from a relatively narrow and ad hoc discipline into the comprehensive rules-based system of today. Moreover, although somewhat truncated in the era of COVID-19, air travel is a central part of international commercial life, in much the same way as international shipping, which is regulated by a similarly dense network of international treaties, most notably the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Were the international community to tolerate aerial piracy, then other state actors could well form the view that such action is a permissible way of seizing political dissidents (or any other individual they want to detain, for that matter). Regardless of the formal jurisdictional question, that cannot be permitted if states want to maintain safe and reliable international air travel as a feature of the international system.

In the first instance, the burden falls greatest on the EU. Flight FR4978 was an intra-EU flight by an EU-flagged plane operated by an EU-domiciled airline. For the EU, this question is more than about ensuring freedom of overflight in the general sense. It is about its capacity to protect those who operate within its Member States from a rogue and isolated state on the bloc’s eastern border. If the EU cannot do that, then one begins to wonder what its value is, in terms of collective security.

Early signs that the EU and the wider international community is taking this seriously are encouraging. The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen (https://twitter.com/vonderleyen/status/1396566441370001413?s=20), immediately described Belarus’ actions as a “hijacking”. The EU summoned (https://twitter.com/eu_eeas/status/1396806266262102016?s=20) the Belarusian ambassador to the EU, presumably in anticipation of a formal diplomatic demand or demarche (the expulsion of the ambassador via a declaration of persona non grata or even the severing of diplomatic relations being a measure of last resort). Sanctions—additional to those imposed in relation to the 2020 elections—are also being discussed (https://twitter.com/eu_eeas/status/1396806266262102016?s=20), and are expected to be announced on the evening of May 24. At the same time, the parliamentary foreign affairs committees (https://twitter.com/TomTugendhat/status/1396792529190850563?s=20) of a number of NATO and EU states have called for the stopping of international flights over Belarus, an investigation by ICAO and the release of Protasevich and Sapega. Some states are not waiting. The UK, for example (https://twitter.com/grantshapps/status/1396835052168810499?s=20), has suspended UK-flagged flights to and over Belarus, and has revoked landing rights for Belarus’ national carrier, Belavia. Across the Atlantic, the U.S. has also expressed grave concern, with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (https://twitter.com/SecBlinken/status/1396597056341426185?s=20) also calling for an international inquiry and pledging support for collective action. ICAO (https://twitter.com/icao/status/1396515815248257027?s=20) itself has also expressed its willingness to undertake further action if asked, in the form of a potential investigation.

Depending on the scale of these sanctions and other responses, the international community backlash to the detention of Protasevich and Sapega will leave Belarus more isolated from Europe than it already is, and generally cut off from the central and western parts of the continent. While any sanctions will generally be targeted at individuals that the EU considers responsible for the diversion of Flight FR4978 and the detention of Protasevich and Sapega (with the exception of President Lukashenko himself, who holds head of state immunity (https://www.icj-cij.org/public/files/case-related/121/121-20020214-JUD-01-00-EN.pdf)), it will be impossible to insulate ordinary people entirely from the economic impact of such measures. This could conceivably prompt further protests from the Belarusian citizenry, and further crackdowns from the government.

One wonders, however, if “grave concern” will be enough to secure Belarus’ compliance with international law – even if backed by sanctions. If, as stated, international law’s principal method of enforcement is withdrawal of the benefits of international society, then what is to be done when a particular state decides it is content to go without those benefits? Certainly, in the wake of the 2020 elections, following which President Lukashenko is widely perceived to have used state violence to remain in office, the Belarusian government has made it perfectly clear that it will not bow to international pressure (https://www.newsweek.com/belarus-president-alexander-lukashenko-agrees-early-election-if-us-will-also-hold-one-1589699) to change its behavior—though it remains sensitive to the Russian government’s opinion. Belarus is far from a “hermit kingdom”—as Albania once was, and North Korea still is—but there is little doubt that it is steadily turning inward, perhaps irrevocably so, and that international action may hasten this process.

Whatever the answer, the international community should not balk from trying to bring Belarus into line here via coordinated political and legal means. If the international community fails to take action, other states, who are doubtlessly watching carefully, may get the idea that this kind of behavior will be generally tolerated without serious repercussions. Refusal to act may therefore usher in a new reality of international air travel—one in which airlines either refuse to fly over certain regions, or will not carry known political dissidents on their aircraft, for fear of state-backed hijacking.


International Law (https://www.lawfareblog.com/topic/international-law),
Russia and Eastern Europe (https://www.lawfareblog.com/topic/russia-and-eastern-europe)

https://www.lawfareblog.com/sites/default/files/styles/thumbnail/public/pictures/picture-8135-1621885554.jpg?itok=aOIcY0kI (https://www.lawfareblog.com/contributors/cniles)
Cameron Miles is a practicing international lawyer and a barrister at 3 Verulam Buildings in London, acting for states and related entities before international and domestic courts and tribunals. He holds an LLM and PhD in public international law from the University of Cambridge.

26th May 2021, 11:50
Two officers of the Belarusian secret police, the KGB, were also onboard. Once the plane was in Belarusian airspace, those officers told the pilot of Flight FR4978 that there was an explosive device on board, and that an immediate emergency landing was required. At this point, a Belarusian Air Force MiG-29 appeared alongside and “escorted” the aircraft

Says who ? I thought this was fully debunked by no less than Bellingcat.

Engineering a fake bomb threat to force a diversion to apprehend a "peson of interest" is definitely inacceptable. The coordinated media and government outrage is starting to smell foul too…

26th May 2021, 11:59

As per my post #115, according to Lithuanian Minister of Defense, which I consider a credible source, the MiG was never "in your window", but tens of km away.

Hot 'n' High
26th May 2021, 12:17
I have made comments to that effect and beeen rebuked that he most likely did not know about the flight routing... if true do you realy want this guy to lead a revolution, let alone a country. At least try some better casting and have some competnent team around him/her.

He could have not realised ...... but a straight line on a map suggests it would be close enough to be something to consider given he should be actively trying to protect himself.

I guess complacency set in....... Praps he thought MOLs fiery reputation would have been enough to dissuade Lukashenko from having a go.........

Hot 'n' High
26th May 2021, 12:55
I would say that as a dissident you have to set aside some of your fears and ignore some of the theoretical risks to maintain your sanity. ..........

Agreed - and sometimes that "risk assessment" does not work out for the individual. I'm just giving my take on it based on the little we know of this case. And......
....... It is the responsibility of the European authorities to ensure the safety of those traveling within the EU. Thus the need for a very clear and effective reaction to this violation.

Again, agreed - my bold!

26th May 2021, 13:19
Just a thought ... could 'someone' have access to passenger lists or getting an alert when a specific name is entered? And of course, whether or not that specific name has been confirmed as having checked in and boarded the aircraft? That's a useful starting point to get the 'game' going ...

26th May 2021, 13:38
In the meantime did the FD crew receive a threat to the aircraft or passengers from the "KGB" agents on board via the cabin crew? That's a possibility to add the the myriad of other scenarios. We are nowhere near the full story just yet.

Mister Geezer
26th May 2021, 15:23
Opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya admitted on Sky News that she flew from 'Greece to Lithuania' recently, so one could assume a similar route over Belarus was flown. I am unaware if Roman Protasevich knew about her recent travel plans but if he did, he could be forgiven for thinking he would be relatively safe if Lukasheko's passed the chance to apprehend his main political opponent. Perhaps Protasevich was under close observation from Belarusian intelligence and it was a question of when rather than if he was apprehended or harmed and he was of course, blissfully unaware that he was being monitored?

26th May 2021, 15:24
Meanwhile, nothing of any lasting consequence will happen. Belarus just pulled off a well planned and executed abduction.

26th May 2021, 16:11

"Meanwhile, nothing of any lasting consequence will happen. Belarus just pulled off a well planned and executed abduction."

I fear you are correct. By next week, once all the huffing and puffing has died down, it will be last week's news and business as usual.

26th May 2021, 17:11

None of the passengers interviewed so far reported anything out of the ordinary until the landing. The crew did not report anything either. The people who left the aircraft were passengers booked on a further leg to Minsk (which does not mean them being innocent parties but doesn't make them state agents either). To the best of what we know so far the crew was deceived into diverting into Minsk. All considered (lack of company suport, limited information, unaware of the "high profile" passenger they had on bord) their action seems adequate.

26th May 2021, 17:14
Perhaps someone can clarify, but by my review of what has been posted and reported, the actions don't follow the narrative.

Presuming we take everything from the Minsk authorities at face value, let's look at what happened once the plane landed. By passenger reports, Roman was immediately seized and questioned. His were the only bags sniffed. I don't think anyone else was removed from the plane... Is this SOP when you are focusing on a potential bomb threat? Did they even attempt to fake their concern over a bomb? Over 120 witnesses can attest to what they saw and observed....But, how does Minsk square their actions with a procedure to swiftly remove this person as their primary focus over the sweeping for a bomb... The passengers interviewed stated Roman was singled out immediately.... How is Minsk going to be able to create a narrative for this? Is Roman the suspected Hamas agent in their narrative? I mean was the plane even swept for a potential bomb at any point?

26th May 2021, 17:23

In some places it is called ESTA.

To be honest Russian intelligence is often presented as grotesquely incompetent as of late but they are suspected to have infiltrated the whole UK visa system so anything is possible…

But for the case at hand the presence of Protasevich in Athens was of public record as he was covering Tikhanoushkaya’s appearance (not exactly clear what she was doing there meeting with various diplomats). A discrete surveillance up to the airport and seeing him board the Ryanair direct fight was all the intel needed

26th May 2021, 17:24

All passengers were disembarked and all their luggage unloaded and inspected. They spent 7 hours in a terminal building.

26th May 2021, 20:05
By the time you've finished typing your ACARS message you'd be on the ground already.

ATC Watcher
26th May 2021, 21:50
The people at FR must be blind not to see this.
To be fair to them this was decision made decades ago based on other assumptions at a time where removing window blinds and other PR things were the norm. . Since then they apparently have seen the light and are changing policies on this matter. So we are told. But Retrofitting 400+ aircraft is not easy and unlikely to happen, , but they are replacing them , 200+ are on order and those should be Data link equipped, again , so we are told .

27th May 2021, 00:00
Mister Geezer

Lukashenka has no interest in apprehending Tsikhanovskaya - in fact he forced her to leave the country instead of keeping her under arrest! She is much less of a problem for him when she is abroad.

Protasevich on the other hand was a major PITA for him thanks to his NEXTA Telegram channel (which was the news source about protests). Plus his girlfriend was reportedly running another Telegram channel where she published personal data on Belarusian cops involved in suppressing protests. They were easily the most wanted couple for Belarusian authorities. It was not a good idea to fly over Belarus for them (even without a bomb threat, you can always end up with an emergency landing).

27th May 2021, 01:48
Just saw a news story that claims the threatening email was received 24 minutes after the plane was instructed to divert. The sham continues to unravel.

27th May 2021, 05:13
here you go: https://news.yahoo.com/bomb-threat-cited-belarus-hijacking-203029699.html
And one from der Spiegel: https://www.spiegel.de/ausland/belarus-behoerden-draengten-ryanair-jet-zur-landung-schon-vor-eingang-der-vermeintlichen-bombendrohung-a-cb779e8a-c3ce-47dd-9745-d2e5030c2797

If these are real, the whole belarussian story just collapsed.

27th May 2021, 05:43
Spiegel ist interesting.
They moved their wording from „entführt“ - abducted/hijacked to „zur Landung gedrängt“ - urged to land.
They are as deep in the a… of the german government as a private news outlet in the western world can be. That might indicate a slight correction of narrative. The presence of the MiG at gun point has been uncorrected so far in this country’s media.

ATC Watcher
27th May 2021, 07:49
Interesting the Speigel story ( normally very well informed) it says he email was sent to Vilnius airport at 12:25, so before they entered Belarus airspace. One possible scenario is that they probably thought that Vilnius would inform the crew via company frequency and the crew itself would announce it on on their frequency and would divert "naturally " to closest airport would would be Minsk. But that did not happen and as the aircraft was about to leave their airspace they quickly changed to plan B, only realizing afterwards they had not sent the email to themselves and someone stupidly did it retroactively .
The plot thickens....

27th May 2021, 10:04
Does anybody know if any and which EU countries have already introduced interdictions for Belavia/BRU overflight?
I can confirm that at 1000z there are no restrictions in Bucharest FIR (LRBB) and Sofia FIR (LBSR). Scheduled flights overfly Ukraine / Kyiv UIR (UKBU), as well.

27th May 2021, 10:41
I think generally for the EU/UK level it's still officially at the level of "requesting" their registered airlines to avoid.

TBF it looks like most UK/EU operators are doing as requested.

However if FR24 is to be believed some cargo operators, including some N reg ones, don't seem to have any many or inhibitions about continuing overflight.

For example Thurs AM at 1040 UTC there's a Fedex flight (FDX21) westbound over Belarus to the south of Minsk

27th May 2021, 10:53
If you look at the Minsk departure board (not a busy airport) there are 23 scheduled departures presently showing between 0300 and 1900. Nine of these are cancelled. Those which continue to operate are those to "friendly" countries!

27th May 2021, 11:45

Don't know about the rest, but Finnish authorities have
A: banned Belavia from operating in Finland. This in practice does affect Belavia as it has had four weekly flights to HEL (source: https://www.traficom.fi/en/news/traficom-revoked-airline-belavias-operating-authorisation-finland )
B: Recommended Finnish carriers to avoid Belarus airspace and that all the carriers have agreed to comply (source: https://www.traficom.fi/en/news/european-council-calls-eu-based-carriers-avoid-overflight-belarus-until-further-notice )

27th May 2021, 12:13
Latvia: https://www.caa.gov.lv/en/article/latvian-government-imposes-restrictions-air-traffic-belarus
Sweden: https://www.transportstyrelsen.se/sv/Nyhetsarkiv/2021/transportstyrelsen-aterkallar-trafiktillstandet-for-belavia-belarusian-airlines/
Estonia apparently making official announcement about it later today.

27th May 2021, 12:26
Thank you very much, everybody!
France and UK as well, right from the source:
Belavia news
25 May 2021 The United Kingdom and France imposed flight bans
Finland and Czech Republic have banned flights (updated)

Even if on the site is a notification on ban from Ukraine (https://en.belavia.by/news/4674385/) many flight overflown today UKR - maybe the ban was on UKR destinations/origins.

In addition: Due to flight bans from a number of countries, Belavia is forced to cancel flights from 27 May to 30 October 2021 to the following destinations: Warsaw; Milan; Amsterdam; Rome; Frankfurt; Berlin; Munich; Hannover; Vienna; Brussels; Barcelona; Kaliningrad.

27th May 2021, 13:14
Russia is putting some pressure in not allowing flight plans that does not overfly Belarus. As first entry point into Russia is located a Belarus-Russia border. (2x Air France flights canceled due to this reason)

27th May 2021, 13:45
Ops Group assessment.

27th May 2021, 13:52
Well looks like AF276, CDG-NRT is having a go - it's currently (1350 UTC) northeast bound over Lithuania .

Edit to add: Looks to have entered Russian airspace Ok, there is an AF cargo and also KLM flight not far behind, so if there was a problem this AM it looks like it has been resolved.

27th May 2021, 14:24
Something interesting is going on, as earlier in the day there was a RAF Rivet Joint cruising in Poland/Lithuania area, and now there are a couple of Beech Guardrails minding their business, circling in Lithuania.

Less Hair
27th May 2021, 14:33
Russia seems to have denied entry to AF and OS flights to Moscow that had rerouted to stay outside Belarus before.

27th May 2021, 15:21
Shocking development -


27th May 2021, 15:31
Less Hair

Interesting...looking like "ops normal" over that part of the world now - the usual stream of PM eastbounds to Japan from Europe (e.g. KLM/BA/AF)

Dan Dare
27th May 2021, 15:46

are you sure? I don’t think your reality matches what the radar says.

27th May 2021, 16:06

That is normal business since many month

27th May 2021, 16:08
Dan Dare

I'm obviously being a bit dull, maybe a result of too many beers in the truck over the years because you're going to have to spell it out what you think I'm missing.

At the moment it looks like the Longhaul eastbounds from western Europe to Japan this PM have pretty much taken one of the standard routes - that is north east over the Baltic States and then into St Peterburgh FIR and onwards..

Sure, there may be fewer flights, possibly due Covid, but other than that?

​​​​​​(Just for clarity/ save us being at cross purposes over this, I raised the point earlier because there was a comment upthread about flight plans into Russian Airspace not being accepted if they didn't route via the Belorussian FIR).

Timmy Tomkins
27th May 2021, 17:19
Ops Group assessment.

Sitting neatly on the fence

The AvgasDinosaur
27th May 2021, 19:25
It ‘may’ be purely coincidence but three representatives of Vlad’s finest have arrived in Minsk today
1627 RA-96017 IL-96 srs 300 Rossiya
1827 RA-64522 TU-214SUS Rossiya
1855 RA-64057 TU-204-300 Rossiya

All from Moscow Vnukovo !!
Comments, observations and or speculation welcome

WillowRun 6-3
27th May 2021, 19:58
Wall Street Journal (website) now reporting further statements by Group of 7 and EU, as well as ICAO Council:

"On Thursday, foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the EU’s foreign policy chief called the diversion 'a serious attack on the rules governing civil aviation' and called on the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate the incident. The ICAO later said it would do so, and ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano said the event 'posed apparent and serious threats to the legal framework' governing commercial aviation."

The same article reported on a "private" letter from MOL to Belarus CAA, protesting Belarus actions and disputing its version(s) of the events and communications.

( While supporting, generally, an action by ICAO "to investigate the incident", this SLF/atty questions what process, and by or under what specific authorities, ICAO investigatory action would be conducted. Thus far, no announcement or statement about this by ICAO has been located.)

WillowRun 6-3
27th May 2021, 20:05
Reuters reporting on ICAO Council meeting today (27 May):

U.N. aviation body discusses call to probe Belarus airliner grounding | Reuters (https://www.reuters.com/article/belarus-politics-aviation-icao-idUSL2N2NE1PN)

27th May 2021, 21:24
Regardless of the lack of a definitive detailed account of what actually happened, I can't help thinking that this was a clumsy, ill thought through solo run by Belarus.

I'd expect Putin is furious about this incident, it threatens his strategy regarding allied states buffering his borders and indirectly drags him into an international s**t storm.

I'm glad this mess is not in my in tray.

28th May 2021, 01:27
Okay, thanks wiggy. I stand corrected.

WillowRun 6-3
28th May 2021, 01:43
ICAO Council to pursue fact finding investigation into Ryanair FR4978

Montréal, 27 May 2021 – The ICAO Council expressed its strong concern today at the apparent forced diversion of Ryanair Flight FR4978, a commercial passenger aircraft flying in Belarus airspace on Sunday, 23 May 2021.

At a special meeting convened, the ICAO Governing Body underlined the importance of establishing the facts of what happened, and of understanding whether there had been any breach by any ICAO Member State of international aviation law, including the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) and its Annexes.

Recalling Article 55 (e) of the Chicago Convention, the Council decided to undertake a fact-finding investigation of this event, and in this connection requested the ICAO Secretariat to prepare an interim report to the Council for a subsequent meeting of the current session, presenting the available facts and relevant legal instruments.

The Council also called upon all ICAO Member States and other relevant stakeholders to collaborate with this fact-finding investigation in the interests of ensuring the safety and security of civil aviation, and offered the assistance and expertise of ICAO in the pursuit of this endeavor.

"The Council has therefore decided that all relevant facts should be officially established through an ICAO investigation conducted by the ICAO Secretariat," emphasized ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano.

ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu responded to the Council's decision during the meeting and assured the full support and cooperation of the Secretariat in implementing this decision.
ICAO Council to pursue fact finding investigation into Ryanair FR4978 (https://www.icao.int/Newsroom/Pages/ICAO-Council-agrees-to-pursue-fact-finding-investigation-into-Belarus-incident.aspx)

28th May 2021, 03:10
Putin seems to have doubled down in concert with Lukashenko.

It all depends whether western airlines continue to refuse to transit Belarus airspace, even if that means they won't get clearance to land in Moscow.

Putin and Lukashenko, with some reason, likely believe that it will blow over in a month or so.

Will they be proven wrong?

Max Tow
28th May 2021, 03:15
Trust in ATC is a pretty fundamental requirement and given that IFALPA has described this as "a wilful hazard to safety of passengers/crew" (Twitter 24th May), I'd have expected a bit more pressure from the pilot unions (quite apart from the UK/EU "requests" to airlines and ongoing ICAO discussions) in respect of overflight suspension.
Have I missed something?

28th May 2021, 03:57
There goes the belarussian story, the email service provider has confirmed that the email was sent AFTER the plane was already turned (read: lured) to Minsk.

"A bomb threat cited by Belarusian authorities as the reason for forcing a Ryanair jetliner carrying a dissident journalist to land in Minsk was sent after the plane was diverted, privacy-focused email provider Proton Technologies AG said on Thursday."


28th May 2021, 08:03

So, the Russians are now complicit. We really should shut down ANY flights going to OR through Belarus, AND Russia if they're going to play hardball like this. It was only ever going to end this way.

28th May 2021, 08:28
Back to the old days of London-Tokyo routing via Anchorage ?

ATC Watcher
28th May 2021, 08:56
I would not bet on that one , the current Tran Siberian routes are the only reason Russia keeps the ATC centers along the routes , and collect the hefty route charges associated with the overflights. The centers largely sustain the (poor) local economy , IATA will make pressure to keep the routes open, too much money involved , and not in the current Covid-crisis. But with Putin you never know.

28th May 2021, 10:25
The AvgasDinosaur

Long-scheduled meeting of the post-Soviet CIS states' heads of government in Minsk today. Belarus currently chairs the state alliance. Got carried away at work (media) myself as 96017 is a plane frequently used by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But I had to pull my headlines after this down-to-earth explanation was to be found, outside all main Western media.

WillowRun 6-3
28th May 2021, 12:36
Max Tow

The alert issued by IFALPA also included the European Cockpit Assn. (ECA) - not certain of this but I don't recall the Int'l Federation having been joined by other pilot labor organizations in issuance of prior bulletins about urgent safety-related issues or matters.

Regardless of that smaller point, if you were in charge - officially - of IFALPA, would you not take the most strident and definitive position, consistent with the facts as they reasonably appear to be at that time, in your initial public statement about the incident? IFALPA (and ECA) certainly are aware of the difficulties involved for mobilizing meaningful, actual, concrete action against entities or countries who violate important safety-related procedures and provisions. Aren't the interests of pilots best advanced and protected by taking the strongest (reasonable) stand to begin with, hoping to influence the several next phases of responses by civil aviation groups on the international level?

Article 55(e) may or may not have been relied upon previously by ICAO Council for instituting an investigation; if it has been relied upon, the situation is not one this SLF/atty recalls. This is not to claim that the Council's action yesterday will lead to adequate, or even partially adequate, solutions. I'm not sure there's even a consensus at the Council or in the broader civil aviation community internationally about how to define the problem at this time. Is it applying leverage (also known usually as "sanctions" though leverage has heavier meaning) to force release of the persons removed from the passenger cabin of the aircraft? Is it something intended to "teach Belarus a lesson"?

Not shrugging at the expressions of cynicism - about whether anything real can or will be done. At the same time, if one agrees this situation is unprecedented either in its severity, or methods deployed, or both, then cynicism can wait. The IFALPA-ECA statement has a ring of seriousness about it, IMHO, and this warrants endowing the Article 55(e) process to be conducted by the Secretariat with a measure of confidence. If you have heard the SecGen give a speech, and especially if you've heard the SecGen take Q&A after such a speech, perhaps you'd agree that any process this particular SecGen will conduct about a matter of such seriousness will also be a very serious and focused process. (True, a new SecGen takes office soon, but then there's something about "legacy" kicking around the big office building in Montreal.)

28th May 2021, 12:45
Belavia flight refused entry into Polish airspace and returned to Minsk. Not really shocking considering the past couple of days, but I think that they need a refresher course on holding patterns!

28th May 2021, 17:17
Regardless of the lack of a definitive detailed account of what actually happened, I can't help thinking that this was a clumsy, ill thought through solo run by Belarus.

I'd expect Putin is furious about this incident, it threatens his strategy regarding allied states buffering his borders and indirectly drags him into an international s**t storm.

I'm glad this mess is not in my in tray.

Quite the opposite, this is exactly how Putin likes it. The buffer states take the s**t storm (as if the EU would ever act against Russia as they should) while all Russian dissidents are warned should they not have gotten the message the Scripal or Navalny ‘incidents’ send, and Russians get the confirmation they ‘need strong man Putin’ or they end up in the same chaos... We should also not forget MH17 and al the Russian bs surrounding it...

29th May 2021, 02:20
I really feel that if the international community doesn't take serious action, not only in aviation - such as a no-fly zone over Belarus - but also serious sanctions, then this sort of thing will be seen as acceptable practice. It's a very dangerous, and also a very sad moment for international air travel.

29th May 2021, 06:24
"The White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday the United States was also suspending a 2019 agreement between Washington and Minsk that allowed carriers from each country to use the other’s airspace, and taking other actions against the government of President Alexander Lukashenko."

In essence, BY carriers not allowed in US airspace, but does this mean that US based carriers are out of BY skies, too?

Furthermore, United States will reimpose “full blocking sanctions” on nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises on 3 June, prohibiting US persons from dealing with those businesses. I'm struggling to find out what are the companies, if it is oil/potash, it can hit pretty well.


Max Tow
29th May 2021, 07:18
" In essence, BY carriers not allowed in US airspace, but does this mean that US based carriers are out of BY skies, too?" Apparently not as UPS8 CGN/SZX routing through Belarus now.

29th May 2021, 07:26
The article didn't state the date in which it will come effective, it might be 3rd June as the other sanctions.

Timmy Tomkins
29th May 2021, 10:27

Whilst you are quite right in that view, I see little evidence of most leaders taking serious action against leaders like Lukashenko or Putin. Tinkering at the edges seems to be the norm, with a few exepctions, like the Polies.

The PM in the UK had to be leaned on hard by back benchers and commitees simply to bin the idea of Huwawei in our phone networks and his record against Putin is pretty weak. He and others will put larger economic interests at the fore and Putin et al know it.

31st May 2021, 01:14

31st May 2021, 06:32


7:45 UTC The aircraft enters a holding pattern and starts performing a loop over Lida


31st May 2021, 06:46
Using fighter aircraft to help divert a crippled or erring airliner, is an approved Geneva Convention procedure in the age where all ATP's did not speak English. Fighters/Military aircraft, flying abreast of airliner's cockpit waggled their wings as a sign language to persuade the airliner in question to follow the guiding/friendly/military aircraft. What I wish to convey is that procedure is perfectly legal.

ATC Watcher
31st May 2021, 07:19
The article in aerotime is very well made and identifies the loops in the story . As the the interception or not by the Mig29, the Lithuanian air defense have received a beautiful JTPS primary radar for Japan in 2020 , so the interception has been watched and recorded, and the Lithuanian prosecutor will most probably had access already , so the truth will come out one day or the other.

31st May 2021, 07:38
The article in aerotime is very well made and identifies the loops in the story . .

Traditionally in aviation "loops" are performed in the vertical, what the FR flight did would be probably be described as "orbits" or just perhaps "holds" by most of us here.

I know this sounds very pedantic but whilst the article gets top marks for presentation many of us here will hear alarm bells ringing when they see the author use "loops" in the context they have done. It might also bring into question how accurate the rest of the piece is (I see in the comments somebody has a gripe about the author switching between UTC and local, UTC plus 2).

31st May 2021, 07:41

Most of us here know that and it was the subject of discussion upthread...the bigger query is whether any fighter was anywhere near the Ryanair flight at any time during this whole episode...

Less Hair
31st May 2021, 08:01
IIRC the Belarus president himself said in a speech he had ordered a fighter to intercept the flight in order to protect his people from any possible terrorist act or danger. A fighter can be a threat without being seen just by being there.
As I have not seen any trustworthy uncut ATC records and the time lines are disputable they might have just mentioned the fact that a fighter is on his way to the crew to strengthen their point or similar.

31st May 2021, 09:25

"I know this sounds very pedantic but whilst the article gets top marks for presentation many of us here will hear alarm bells ringing when they see the author use "loops" in the context they have done. It might also bring into question how accurate the rest of the piece is (I see in the comments somebody has a gripe about the author switching between UTC and local, UTC plus 2)."

I'm not sure that a recruitment agency's website would ever be my first port of call if looking for a definitive account of an incident.

31st May 2021, 12:38
Finally, Ukraine closed its airspace for Belavia. Now that's a hard punch, giving them the extra mile.

31st May 2021, 13:00

Surely that is just a second language / translation issue? loop vs circling vs orbit, something like that.

31st May 2021, 13:58
It may well be but IMHO if your intended audience is aviation professionals or potential/aspiring aviation professionals you need to get the technical language correct...

31st May 2021, 20:51
Less Hair

What's your source for that statement?

This president says many things, because he is an unstable lunatic, but nowhere have I seen any official statement from him saying this. The official reason for the fighter have been many explanations, but so far no proof of any fighter intercepting the aircraft.

31st May 2021, 21:06

It was in practice the first thing that was reported by the main belarus government media:


Also it is noteworthy that "president ordered the u-turn himself". So, how independently did the crew make the diversion decision?

ATC Watcher
1st Jun 2021, 05:50

i see your point , but since you quote me , my own use of the word “ loops” was meant as “loopholes in the Belarus story “not referring to the alleged holding pattern in the article. Most of us here are not native English speakers, so is probably the writer of the article, but despite the use of the wrong term his recap of facts known so far and above all where they came from is very well done .

Less Hair
1st Jun 2021, 06:11
Less Hair
What's your source for that statement?
I seem to remember some official video or sound file of a speech of the president (maybe in Belarus parliament like at a speakers stand or similar) where he elaborated quite lengthy on how he ordered a fighter to intercept the flight and protect the people of Belarus from terrorist attacks. It was like "I ordered..." however translated.

2nd Jun 2021, 16:20
Less Hair

I think you will discover that it was something along the lines, that he ordered fighter to assist (escorting them in and later out of Belarus) - And Lukashenko did this out of his gracious great heart to prevent a terrorist attack in Lithuania / Vilnius.
There is some disconnect here in the logic / logical thinking, so Lukashenko (ATC Belarus), convinced the RYR crew, that they rather have the RYR flight with a bomb divert over Belarussian land / city to a Belarussian airport, risking that the aircraft / bomb could detonate over Belarusia, in a flight that was at least double the distance from diverting to Kaunus in Lithuania.

Normal SOP's for bomb threat is LAND AS SOON POSSIBLE, so the question is why did the crew not follow this SOP? Why would you risk flying double the time you needed into a country that is run by a dictator, and the issue was only if going to Vilnius according to Belarus ATC transcript.

When did ATC dictate what actions you take during a Mayday?
I thought a Mayday call meant that you call the shots, what is the safest outcome for the flight / crew / passengers? Judging by the outcome, this was not the safest option, and this is mainly due to lack of equipment on the aircraft for the crew to get the information they needed, to know they were actually being hijacked by Lukashenko's KGB.

This shows how easy now for a potential future terror attack, by being able to get access the ATC frequency, you can give ATC orders to an aircraft that will go unchallenged, because the airline has no way to assess a security threat while they are in the air, as they are unable to contact their airlines security team, who would involve assessing the credibility of such a security risk.