On May 23, a plane of RyanAir airlines flying from the Athens to Vilnius carried out an emergency landing at the Minsk airport, following a bomb alert. This is widely claimed to be a special operation ordered by President Alexandr Lukashenko aimed at arrest of one of opposition figures Roman Pratasevich, who was on board. However, a closer look at the incident and the newly-released data prove that other forces could be behind this ‘special operation’.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Belarus’ counterpart Alexander Lukashenko walk in as they attend a session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / SERGEI KARPUKHIN (Photo credit should read SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Reports about the explosive device on board were not confirmed. Passengers took another flight. Everyone except Protasevich, his girlfriend to whom he handed his personal belongings, including a laptop and a phone, and four Russian citizens, “who were GRU officers for sure “.
Roman Protasevich is one of the main figures of Belarus opposition, a co-founder of the Telegram channel Nexta that was used for coordination of mass protests since August 2020.
One of the main proofs that the incident was a planned operation of Belarus special forces is the publication on his Telegram channel of his private message, where cautious Protasevich described a suspicious Russian man, who tried to take a photo of his documents before landing. The authors of the channel consider this as proof that Roman Protasevich began to be followed back in Athens.
“I was silent, and he turned to me in Russian with some stupid question,” – Protasevich wrote to his friends.
“Such a middle-aged, fit, with a bald head. In one T-shirt, in light-colored pants and a leather case.”
A closer look at the chronology of events casts doubts on the claims of a “special operation” of special forces.
The crew commander of the aircraft of the RyanAir company informed Minsk about the mining on May 23, at 12:50 local time. At that moment the plane was already near the Lituanian border, but the pilots decided to act in accordance with the international security instructions and requested a landing in Minsk.
A recording of the pilots’ call with the dispatcher has been recently published online. It confirmed that it was pilots’ decision to land in Minsk. At this moment, Minsk airport received an e-mail about the bomb on board. The crew’s decision to land in Minsk was also confirmed by reports from the communications department of the Lithuanian International Airport.
Immediately after the call, the information was reported to President Lukashenko, who gave the command to take measures and secure the landing. The air forces of Belarus reacted to the emergency in according with international standards. The MIG-29 was following the aircraft in order to provide assistance if necessary.
As soon as the plane landed, passengers were evacuated, after which sappers and rescue services were deployed. At the same time, passengers were screened in accordance with safety standards.
Exactly at that moment, a photo of Protasevich appeared online with reports about his arrest. It was published by the assistant of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on his Twitter account. According to reports, the photo was allegedly sent to the “opposition team” by Protasevich’s girlfriend, who was flying with him, for internal use, but they rushed to post it on the Internet even before official reports of his arrest.
BREAKING! The regime landed @Ryanair plane, which was flying from Athens to Vilnius,in order to arrest the famous Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich. In Belarus, he faces the death penalty. Belarus has seized a plane,put passengers in danger, in order to repress an opponent pic.twitter.com/TEv22to5XM— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) May 23, 2021
Meanwhile, the so-called ‘special operation’ was carried out right on the eve of the first offline European Summit, where the European diplomats are going to have a strategic debate on Russia. What a coincidence!
The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, following the results of the EU summit on May 24, will have to prepare a report on relations with Russia.
Hype in global media platforms based on accusations of Lukashenko in neglecting international norms and in ‘international terrorism’, is aimed to have an impact on the results of the summit. European countries were going to discuss new restrictions against Minsk before the incident, but after an international scandal, this topic may become the main one on the forum’s agenda.
The European Union is considering the closure of not only air, but also ground communication with Belarus in response to the actions of President Lukashenko, Bloomberg reported, citing a senior European official close to negotiations on new EU sanctions against Belarus...
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