In the situation with the Ryanair aircraft the Belarusian aviation authorities acted in line with the international rules, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a commentary posted on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry, BelTA has learned.
"We are closely watching the development of the situation around the emergency landing of the Ryanair flight en route from Athens to Vilnius at Minsk airport on 23 May. According to Belarus' official reports, the decision to land the plane was taken by the pilot in command in accordance with the aviation safety rules because of a terrorist act threat. The actions of the Belarusian aviation authorities were in accordance with the international rules. The fighter aircraft of the Belarusian Air Force was scrambled to control and assist in landing if necessary, especially given the presence of the Belarusian nuclear power plant nearby,” the commentary reads.
“We took note of the information about the detention by the Belarusian security services of Roman Protasevich, one of the founders of the Telegram channel NEXTA, who was on board and who was on the list of persons involved in extremist activities. We consider this issue an internal matter of Belarus. There is also the information that a Russian citizen did not return to the plane either. The Russian Embassy in Minsk is in contact with her family and the Belarusian authorities and is ready to provide consular assistance," Maria Zakharova said.
She added: "The coordinated response to these events from a number of Western countries and international organizations, including the EU, NATO and the OSCE is surprising. They demand to release the detained Roman Protasevich and call for the toughest additional sanctions against Belarus and the Belavia airline. I would like to recall that they reacted differently to similar events that had taken place in other countries. Such examples were many."
Maria Zakharova recalled the forced landings: of the Bolivian air force one in Vienna at the request of the U.S. special services, of a personal plane of the former first deputy finance minister of Russia and later Senator Vavilov at the Palm Beach International Airport, who was subjected to hours of interrogation. “Belarusian planes were also subject to forced landings. In 2016, a Belavia plane that departed from Kiev airport and was 50km off the Belarusian airspace was forced to return to the airport of departure at the request of a Ukrainian air traffic controller, who threatened to scramble fighter jets in the event of non-compliance. They did it to arrest ‘anti-Maidan' activist Armen Martirosyan. In a similar scenario, the Ukrainian security services planned to capture the Wagner group member in 2019 through an emergency landing of a plane flying from Minsk to Istanbul in Kiev. Fortunately, this SBU operation failed,” Maria Zakharova said.
“All these actions were done intentionally, in violation of international law. There was practically no Western reaction to them, and none of the perpetrators were punished,” the representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed.
She also drew attention to the statement of the official representative of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who announced Minsk's readiness for maximum transparency in this matter, including the provision of materials and access for international experts. “We urge our Western partners to refrain from double standards and to assess the situation in an unbiased way, without emotions, on the basis of all available materials in cooperation with the Belarusian aviation authorities, who demonstrate openness and willingness to cooperate,” Maria Zakharova said.