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09 December 2021, 12:55

New York Times article about Ryanair aircraft landing in Minsk dismissed as fake

An archive photo
An archive photo

MINSK, 9 December (BelTA) – Director of the Aviation Department of the Belarusian Transport and Communications Ministry Artyom Sikorsky called the material of the New York Times about the Ryanair aircraft landing in Minsk fake news, BelTA has learned.

“The material published by the New York Times is primarily meant for the general public not familiar with specifics of civil aviation. For us, professionals, this material is meaningless and even ridiculous. Let me explain why. Firstly, on that day, 23 May, the decision to land in Minsk was made by the pilot in command. In line with international rules and standards, dispatchers are not allowed to force any decision-making, especially in the event of an aviation security threat. Dispatchers only communicate information and help the pilot-in-command to navigate safely. Secondly, we see that this hoax emerged at the time when we asked our Polish partners and the ICAO commission to provide objective control data, in particular, negotiations between the Vilnius dispatcher and the pilot, as well as in-cabin communication between the crew members,” Artyom Sikorsky said.

According to him, this will help understand what exactly the Belarusian side is accused of. “Present evidence confirming that we exerted some kind of pressure, threatened to use military aircraft, etc. Back on 24 May we publicized in full all the negotiations between the pilot and the dispatcher, starting from entering the airspace of Belarus and ending with landing and taxiing of the aircraft at Minsk National Airport. We held the necessary briefings and press conferences for everyone. Our western partners were not that open,” Artyom Sikorsky said.

Artyom Sikorsky confirmed that the dispatcher featured in the material had really worked at Belaeronavigatsia. He left Belarus, no one prevented him from doing it. “A person who is in the territory of a foreign state and who is facing certain pressure may agree to collaborate in one way or another, he may agree to strike some kind of deal even compromising his integrity. I am not entitled to judge him. He did not say anything specific. We see the interpretation of his words by Polish special services, but not his words,” he said.

Artyom Sikorsky offered his take on why such hoaxes appear. “Firstly, the sponsors and executors of the illegal sanctions and the air blockade need to present some substantiation for their actions. Secondly, they seek to divert the investigation away from what really happened or to slow down the investigation as much as possible. They have no other reasons. After all, any professional knows that there is more than one dispatcher in the dispatch office. There are dispatchers who carry out procedural and radar control, as well as a senior dispatcher, an air traffic controller. In particular, an air traffic controller has a huge responsibility for making decisions,” he said.

He emphasized that all the necessary information was provided to the ICAO team. “When the ICAO team arrived, all our dispatchers who were on duty that day told them in detail what happened. Everything was recorded. We have all the proof confirming the correctness of our actions. From the point of view of civil aviation, we acted impeccably, in accordance with all international standards,” he stated.

“It is still not clear to us what made the pilot in command turn around and fly to Minsk two minutes before crossing the border between Belarus and Lithuania. At the same time, the aircraft did not even descend throughout the entire route to Belarus, although usually it always starts descending near Baranovichi in order to have time to enter the appropriate landing configuration. This raises a lot of questions. The pilot should speak out and tell what made him take this decision,” Artyom Sikorsky said.

He also spoke about the progress in investigating the incident with the Ryanair aircraft. ICAO's final report on Ryanair flight incident was supposed to be discussed at the 224th session that ended in November this year. However, the ICAO team failed to complete the report in time and its review was postponed to the 225th session that will begin in mid-January next year and continue until March. ICAO has not said so far when the final report will be considered, if considered at all. Yet, they promised to consider our complaint of the illegal air blockade and the sanctions against our carriers imposed by Western countries at the 225th session. We have repeatedly emphasized that our European partners break the Chicago Convention that prohibits sanctioning companies because of their country of origin,” he explained.

Artyom Sikorsky noted that right now ICAO does not seem to be doing much. “The last request from them came somewhere in October. Since then, they have not requested any additional information,” he added.

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