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Plane diverted by Minsk: Belarusian officials charged in the United States
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Plane diverted by Minsk: Belarusian officials charged in the United States
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The director and deputy director of Belarusian civil aviation, along with two other government officials accused of diverting a Ryanair flight on May 23 in order to arrest journalist Roman Protassevich, were charged in federal court in New York on Thursday .

American justice on Thursday, January 20, indicted Belarusian government officials, accused of having diverted a Ryanair plane in 2021 in order to arrest an opposition journalist.

Seven months after the spectacular diversion to Minsk, on May 23, of a flight linking Athens to Vilnius by a Belarusian fighter plane, federal justice in New York has charged four Belarusians with “conspiracy to perpetrate an act of piracy” .

On board Ryanair flight 4978 were “four American nationals and more than a hundred other passengers”, state prosecutors in Manhattan. Supported by the FBI and the New York police (NYPD), they accuse in a joint press release “Belarusian government officials Leonid Mikalaevich Churo, Oleg Kazyuchits”, and two others, with incomplete or unknown identities “of having participated centrally in the conspiracy”.

The four men reside in Belarus and are therefore considered “at large”. Leonid Mikalaevich Churo and Oleg Kazyuchits are Director and Deputy Director of Belarusian Civil Aviation. The other two are officers from the country’s state security services.

“False Bomb Threat”

Manhattan Federal Prosecutor Damian Williams has pledged to bring to justice “those who participated in this outrageous conspiracy to commit an act of piracy.” He denounced a “violation of international rules and American criminal law, but also the endangerment of four Americans and other innocent passengers”.

On May 23, 2021, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko raised 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.

In their press release, the federal justice system and the FBI accuse the four Belarusian officials of having developed this “false bomb alert project”. For its deputy director Michael Driscoll, “the FBI and (its) foreign partners will continue to hold accountable those whose actions directly threaten the lives of our nationals and who jeopardize the stability of our national security”.

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

With AFP

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Plane diverted by Minsk: Belarusian officials charged in the United States
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