MINSK, 28 July (BelTA) - Belarus resolutely disagrees with the findings of the ICAO final report and the resolution of the ICAO Council of 18 July. The report is based on incomplete information, Denis Dovgalev, counselor of the Delegation of Belarus to the OSCE, said in response to the statement of the EU delegation at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The diplomat noted that Belarus did not plan to separately raise the issue of blatant injustice and bias related to the consideration of the report on the incident with flight Ryanair FR4978 in ICAO. The position of Belarus, its arguments are set out in detail in the document, which was distributed under SEC. DEL/331/22 on 27 July. "Since the European Union has decided to draw attention to this topic, we will also take this opportunity to comment on a number of key aspects of this case," Denis Dovgalev said.
False claim No. 1
"Belarus resolutely disagrees with the findings of the ICAO final report and the resolution of the ICAO Council of 18 July. The report is based on incomplete information. This is noted in the document itself, it contains a lot of gaps and inconsistencies. In particular, there is no data on the interrogation of pilots, and in fact it was they who made the decision to land the plane at the airport of Minsk, not Vilnius, after receiving a message about a potential bomb threat on board. Why did the pilots actually destroy the cockpit audio recordings as they took this decision? This is an extremely important moment for understanding the incident, which could explain a lot," the diplomat said.
Many key countries directly related to the incident refused to provide information about the incident not only to the Belarusian investigative authorities but also to the ICAO working group. The document is based only on the information that has been received at the time of its publication. This is stated in the report itself.
"Conversely, Belarus provided ICAO with important written information about the air traffic controller's testimony, but the working group did not take the testimony into account. Is this not direct evidence of attempts to ‘adjust' the results of the investigation to a pre-made emotional political verdict beneficial to the EU countries and the United States?” the Belarusian diplomat posed the question. “Another important aspect: the conclusions of the ICAO working group do not mention at all some ‘high-ranking officials of Belarus who influenced the forced landing of the flight in Minsk'. How come such a conclusion made its way to the resolution of the ICAO Council and further to the thundering statements of the EU? As a result of what manipulations this became possible? One can only guess. It's false claim No. 1."
False claim No. 2
"The central element of the ICAO final report is the testimony of an anonymous key witness. The audio recordings from the control tower allegedly made by him allegedly prove the guilt of the Belarusian authorities. The ICAO working group claims that the testimony of the so-called key witness was obtained as a result of his cooperation with Polish and American intelligence agencies. Who is this witness? Does this person even exist? Is he really related to the incident? These things are not clear. ICAO refused, under pressure from Western countries, to verify the accuracy of the recordings, to disclose the details of who this key witness is. The version that this person made a recording on a smartphone does not stand up to any criticism: smartphones are not allowed in the air traffic control room. Yet this ghost dispatcher seemed to know that on that day he must take the phone in and, what's more, turn recording on,” Denis Dovgalev continued.
According to him, one can only guess who this person is. "If we are talking about the Minsk dispatcher who mysteriously disappeared after the incident, having left Belarus for a vacation, then we have reasonable doubts that he gave testimony voluntarily, not under pressure and coercion. We seriously fear for the life and health of this person, since the whole world knows the methods of interrogation, in fact inhuman treatment and torture, which are widely practiced by the special services of the United States and a number of its allies," the diplomat said.
He called on the EU and the United States to provide guarantees that this person is alive and safe.
"We repeat: the recordings provided by the special services of the United States and Poland is a deception and forgery. Manipulation of the same order as the presentation of a vial with white powder in the UN Security Council. This is false claim No.2," the Belarusian diplomat concluded.
False claim No.3
The ICAO report admits that there was no escort, interception or forced landing of flight FR4978 by a military aircraft in the airspace of Belarus. It was the flight commander who personally made the decision to land in Minsk, although all instructions indicated that it was necessary to do at the nearest airport, i.e. in Vilnius.
“This important aspect - the absence of forced landing by the Belarusian military - is given casual mention in the report. After all, it does not pay to highlight such things now, does it? Last year, Western leaders accused the Belarusian authorities of using combat aircraft to force a civilian airliner to land and used this argument to justify their sanctions against the entire Belarusian aviation industry. This is false claim No. 3,” said Denis Dovgalev.
In his words, this is not the first report on the “Ryanair case” published by ICAO in 2022: “Counterparts from the European Union are well aware of the fact that there was also a January report. That report also had many flaws and gaps, but still contained too many conclusions in favor of the Belarusian side. The main conclusion, made back in January, is that there was no interception. Once again, we draw everyone's attention to this.”
“Since the January report, ICAO has never asked Belarus for additional information. It did, however, include dubious testimony from the ghost witness. Back then, in January, the European Union kept silence and did not bring the issue to the Permanent Council. Why not? I hope it is clear to everyone,” said the diplomat.
On politicization and black ingratitude of the West
Denis Dovgalev recalled that the incident with flight FR4978 occurred on 23 May 2021, and a few days later the EU imposed draconian measures against the Belarusian airlines, including the national carrier Belavia, although the airline had absolutely nothing to do with the incident. “At a meeting on 18 July 2022, under pressure from Western countries, the ICAO Council simply refused to consider the Belarusian complaint against the illegal ban on Belarusian airlines. The U.S. representative said directly that the ban on the Belarusian airlines was a revenge on the part of the West,” said the diplomat. “We agree that this cannot be viewed otherwise than revenge and black ingratitude from the West to Belavia, which in 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic, actively helped to evacuate the citizens of Western countries from the farthest corners of our planet, when their national governments simply decided to abandon them.”
“This also shows that the politicization has already affected the most technical international organizations which have nothing to do with politics and which our opponents do not hesitate to manipulate,” the representative of Belarus added.
Another dose of hypocrisy of EU
“In today's statement of the EU delegation we once again hear about their alleged support of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, assistance to the Belarusian people and civil society. This is another dose of hypocrisy from European counterparts. The actions of the EU have nothing to do with the protection of human rights and freedoms. On the contrary, the rights and interests of tens of thousands of Belarusians and citizens of other countries, including Western countries, have been grossly violated because of unjustified and illegal sanctions and restrictions. By imposing sanctions against the Belarusian aviation, the European Union deprived the very citizens of Belarus, about whom it is so verbally concerned, of the right to freedom of movement, infringed the social and economic rights of the aviation industry workers and their families,” said Denis Dovgalev.
According to him, all this happens against the backdrop of the long-standing human rights crisis in the EU countries. For example, the report of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published on 4 July (available at mfa.gov.by/en/publication/reports/) cites only the most resonant and egregious cases of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Western countries, recorded over the past year.
“This once again confirms that no one has a monopoly on the infallibility of human rights, which have been increasingly used as a pretext for exerting political pressure on sovereign states, imposing unjustified economic sanctions and even hybrid wars. This ‘reading' of human rights does not contribute to the global sustainable development, and even hinders it. In terms of security, such policies are fraught with the risk of conflict escalation,” the diplomat concluded.