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    Belarus: the backstage of the forced landing of the Ryanair plane in Minsk

    A former air traffic controller at Minsk airport told Polish officials about the backstage story of the forced landing in Minsk on May 23, 2021, of a Ryanair airliner with oppositionist Roman Protasiewicz on board, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

    The U.S. daily reports that after fleeing from Belarus, the controller was said to have provided Polish services with detailed evidence that the plane was forced to land as part of a Protasiewicz hijacking operation organized by Belarusian intelligence services. 


    Among the methods used to do this was to report the alleged planting of explosives on board the plane. NYT reports that Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for the coordinator of Polish special services, told the newspaper that Polish investigators investigating the hijacking of the Ryanair plane managed to obtain a report from a direct witness to the activities at the control tower in Minsk. 


    He added that according to the witness, the Belarusian KGB (Committee for State Security) officer was in the control tower when the plane was intercepted. As the Journal reports, this officer was “at a crucial moment” to subordinate an air traffic controller; throughout the incident “maintained constant telephone contact with someone to whom he reported what was currently happening with the aircraft.” 


    The fugitive flight controller was responsible for telling the plane’s pilot that there was a bomb on board and that he should land in Minsk “for safety reasons.” 


    “NYT” reports that the account of the hijacking of the plane, provided by the witness, may help Polish prosecutors to prepare legal proceedings against the Belarusian authorities. 


    Protasiewicz and his partner Sofia Sapiega were on board a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius. The plane was forced to land in Minsk and Protasiewicz and Sapiega were arrested.


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