Home LATEST NEWS Plane diverted by Belarus: US justice charges those responsible

Plane diverted by Belarus: US justice charges those responsible

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Seven months after the spectacular rerouting in Minsk, on May 23, of a flight linking Athens to Vilnius, in Lithuania, by a Belarusian fighter plane, the New York federal justice has indicted four Belarusians for conspiracy to commit an act of piracy.

On board Ryanair flight 4978 were four US nationals and more than a hundred other passengers, specify the prosecutors of Manhattan.

Supported by the FBI and the New York police (NYPD), they accuse in a joint statement Belarusian government officials Leonid Mikalaevich Churo, Oleg Kazyuchits, and two others, with incomplete or unknown identities to have participated centrally in the conspiracy.

All four men reside in Belarus and are therefore considered on the run.

MM. Churo and Kazyuchits are Director and Deputy Director of Belarusian Civil Aviation. The other two are officers of the Belarusian State Security Service.

A violation of international rules

Manhattan federal prosecutor Damian Williams has pledged to bring to trial those who participated in this scandalous conspiracy to commit an act of piracy.

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He denounced a violation of international rules and US criminal law, but also the endangerment of four Americans and other innocent passengers.

On May 23, 2021, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko caused an international outcry by dispatching a fighter jet to intercept Ryanair flight FR4978.

Claiming the presence of a bomb on board, Belarusian air traffic control had forced the aircraft to land in Minsk in order to arrest a dissident journalist, Roman Protassevich, and his companion, Sofia Sapega, who were on board.

A man wearing a hoodie sits behind a table, his hands crossed in front of him.

Detained in Minsk, Roman Protassevich said in a video broadcast by state television that he “confessed” after his arrest.

Photo: Reuters

In their press release, federal justice and the FBI accuse the four Belarusian officials of having drawn up this fake bomb threat project.

For its deputy director Michael Driscoll, the FBI and [ses] foreign partners will continue to hold accountable those whose acts directly threaten the lives of our nationals and who jeopardize the stability of our national security.

Last June, just a month after the plane was diverted, Western countries coordinated to put pressure on President Lukashenko with individual sanctions and economic sanctions.

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The European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada had together decided to punish dozens of personalities and companies linked to power in Minsk.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.

Photo: Sputnik via Reuters/Alexander Astafyev

In full tension between Russia and the United States

These first indictments Thursday by the American justice come in a context of extreme international tension about Ukraine between Moscow, support of Belarus, and Washington.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned again on Thursday that Russia, which has massed thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, was taking the risk of rekindling the specter of the Cold War, and again threatened to retaliation in the event of an incursion.

While Moscow denies any plans to invade Ukraine, the Kremlin insists on written guarantees for its security, including the promise that Kiev will not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

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