Ryanair flight 'hijacking’ was 'planned operation’ by Belarus: Polish official

The forcible diversion of a Ryanair flight in May was planned and executed by Belarusian security services in order to arrest dissident activist Roman Protasevich, a spokesman for Poland’s security services said on Friday. 

Presenting the findings of a Polish investigation, Stanisław Żaryn told a news conference in Warsaw that „the facts and evidence show unequivocally that the hijacking of the Ryanair plane” on May 23 „was an operation carried out by the Belarusian security services, designed to arrest a political opponent of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.”

The perpetrators used “a fake bomb threat,” “terrorised the plane crew,” and “deprived the passengers of liberty,” Żaryn told reporters.

’State terrorism’

“We are definitely dealing with something which should be interpreted as an instance of state terrorism, conducted by the Belarusian security services,” Żaryn said.

Investigators have established that “there was no bomb threat whatsoever,” Polish state PAP news agency reported.

The evidence they have gathered showed the air-traffic controller had informed the pilots about the bomb threat before a doctored email was sent with a warning, the news agency said.

Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) has also found that an operative from the Belarusian intelligence and security agency, the KGB, was giving orders to the air-traffic controller in Minsk at the time of the diversion, officials told reporters.

The presentation of the findings of the Polish probe followed a report by The New York Times newspaper that the Belarusian air-traffic controller had defected to Poland and was helping Polish prosecutors build a legal case against the authorities in Minsk that could be tested in court.

The Boeing 737 plane at the centre of the drama was registered in Poland and operated by a Polish subsidiary of the Irish carrier Ryanair.

The European Union in early June banned Belarusian planes from entering its airspace in response to the forced landing of the Ryanair flight in Minsk.

Poland’s national air carrier LOT in May suspended flights to Minsk and ceased to use Belarusian airspace.

(pm/gs)

Source: PAP, TVP Info

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