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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Forced landing of Ryanair flight FR4978 in Minsk: UK statement

Ambassador Neil Bush condemns the actions on 23 May by the Belarusian authorities, who arrested journalist Roman Protasevich having forced his flight to land in Minsk.

25 May 2021

Madam Chair,

The UK joins other participating States in condemning the actions on 23 May by the Belarusian authorities, who arrested journalist Roman Protasevich having forced his flight to land in Minsk.

The Belarusian authorities claim that this was in relation to an alleged bomb threat, but we have seen no evidence to support that claim. What we have seen is that Belarus scrambled a MiG fighter, forced the plane to divert to Minsk and then used the emergency landing as an opportunity to arrest a prominent journalist.

We understand that Mr Protasevich was detained on spurious charges. The video released yesterday evening of Protasevich's alleged confession is shocking and distressing to watch. We are deeply worried by his continued detainment and treatment. It's yet another shocking assault on human rights and freedom of the press by the Belarusian authorities. The UK calls for his immediate and unconditional release and the release of all other political prisoners in Belarus.

The UK is seeking full details of precisely what took place in relation to flight FR4978, but the scenario as reported is a shocking assault on civil aviation and on international law. It represents a danger to civilian flights everywhere, and it is an egregious and extraordinary departure from the international law and practice that guides international civil aviation under the Chicago convention.

In light of these actions, the UK has issued an advisory notice to strongly advise all UK airlines to cease overflights of Belarusian airspace. The operating permit of the Belarusian airline Belavia to fly between the UK and Belarus has also been suspended. Yesterday, we summoned the Belarusian ambassador in London to express the UK's deep concern over Belarus' actions.

Madam Chair,

We call on the Belarusian authorities to provide a full explanation for what appears to be a serious violation of international law.



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