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03 June 2021, 10:05

Who wanted Ryanair plane to land in Minsk? ONT TV channel tells story behind Athens-Vilnius flight

Photo courtesy of ont.by
Photo courtesy of ont.by

MINSK, 3 June (BelTA) – On 2 June, the Belarusian ONT TV channel released an investigative documentary about the emergency landing of a Ryanair aircraft en-route from Athens to Vilnius in Minsk. The film reconstructed the events, showed passenger testimonies and confession of Roman Protasevich, BelTA has learned.

On 23 May, at 12:25, when the plane was still in the Ukrainian airspace, Minsk National Airport received an e-mail with a bomb threat. Five minutes later, air traffic controllers passed the information to the pilots of the plane that had just entered the airspace of Belarus and recommended them to land in Minsk.

The negotiations between the Belarusian air traffic controllers and the pilots lasted for almost 15 minutes. Simultaneously, the pilot-in-command contacted his airline and, possibly, the airport in Vilnius. During this time the plane almost approached the Lithuanian border.

“During those 14 minutes, the plane almost reached Lida, just over 25km away from the state border, and about 78km from the airport in Vilnius. The Boeing 737 was traveling at a speed of 900 km/h. Simple math: an aircraft covers 15km in one minute, and it would have needed two minutes to cross the state border into the Lithuanian airspace. The pilot-in-command however decided to make a turn and head to Minsk. No one forced him to do this, no one gave him such a command. There were only recommendations. He could have decided to keep going and left the Belarusian airspace within two minutes,” Commander of the Air Force and Air Defense Igor Golub said.

The plane landed at the Minsk airport at 13:24. Security checks of the luggage and passengers revealed nothing extraordinary. The film also presented the recordings of the conversations between emergency services and dashcam footage of the rescue vehicles, which refutes rumors that they had allegedly been sent to the airport in advance.

According to the TV channel, Roman Protasevich was one of the last to get off the plane. After the check he calmly boarded a bus. When he was still in line at the passport control, reports about the forced landing of the plane and the detention of Roman Protasevich suddenly popped up on the internet. It was first published on social networks by Franak Vecherka. Even half an hour later since his first post, Roman Protasevich was still going through the airport control.

Who knew that Roman Protasevich was on board the plane? The authors of the film emphasize that no one in Belarus knew or could know this information. Only three parties have access to passenger manifests: the airports of departure and arrival, and the airline.

During the interrogation Roman Protasevich stated that he had tense relations with one person. The only post he made about his travel itinerary was in a work chat room 40 minutes before his flight to Vilnius. “As soon as I said that, I found myself in Minsk right away. Right away!” he said. In his opinion, this coincidence is not accidental.

Perhaps another fact is not coincidental, either: the Belarusian was detained at Minsk National Airport after Svetlana Tikhanovskaya made a detailed and loud statement about the incident in her Telegram-channel.

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