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Transport Minister calls for independent and thorough investigation into flight diverted to Belarus

Eamon Ryan told the International Transport Forum (ITF) that a thorough investigation into the incident is needed.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan speaking to the International Transport Forum.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan speaking to the International Transport Forum.
Image: PA

THE TRANSPORT MINISTER is to call on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to carry out an independent investigation into the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to Belarus.

Eamon Ryan told the International Transport Forum (ITF) that a thorough investigation into the incident is needed.

Ryan also called for the immediate release of Roman Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

Protasevich was on board a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius on Sunday when it was forced to change course to head for the Belarus capital after a reported bomb scare, escorted by a MiG fighter jet.

He was arrested and, in a video released by Belarusian authorities on Monday evening, appeared to admit he was involved in organising mass protests in Minsk last year.

Ryan said that Ireland and European leaders have condemned the “coercive forced landing” of the plane.

He added that the “unacceptable actions” by authorities in Belarus endangered the lives of the passengers and crew onboard.

“We call for an transparent and independent investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organisation into the incident,” Ryan told the ITF annual conference of transport ministers.

I think we need a full probe, a thorough investigation.

“What we will be looking for is an investigation under Article 55E of the Convention of the Council (ICAO).

“My understanding is that this will be the first such investigation. We would expect it to be at the end of June. I think it’s vital that it’s thorough, that it’s independent and comprehensive.

“For everyone’s interest we need to know what happened, which is a very serious incident.”

Article 55E gives the council the power to investigated, at the request of any contracting State, “any situation which may appear to present avoidable obstacles to the development of international air navigation; and, after such investigation, issue such reports as may appear to it desirable”.

On Monday evening, the EU and the UK announced it would issue new sanctions against Belarus in light of the arrest.

Protasevich’s parents today pleaded for help in securing the release of their son.

“I want you to relay our appeal everywhere, throughout the world, to government representatives, to EU countries, to EU leaders, to US leaders: I am appealing, I am begging, help me free my son,” his mother Natalia told journalists in Warsaw.

His father, Dmitry said Protasevich is “a tough man” and “a hero”.

“Throughout his life he fought for the truth and passed it on to people, which is why Lukashenko committed this despicable act,” he said.

The couple and their lawyer confirmed that they have not had any communication with their son since his arrest.

The G7 global powers also demanded that Minsk release Protasevich and the EU’s foreign policy chief threatened hard-hitting economic sanctions.

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Alexander Lukashenko has been president of Belarus since the post was established in 1994 and won re-election for a sixth time in 2020 with 80% of the vote, in a ballot deemed “neither free nor fair” by the European Union.

Since winning the disputed election last August, Lukashenko has cracked down on dissenting voices, with many opposition figures arrested and others forced into exile.

Additional reporting by AFP.

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