Over the weekend a Ryanair flight between Greece and Lithuania was diverted to Belarus in order for a journalist to be arrested. Belarus claimed to have received a bomb threat about this flight, blaming the diversion on that. However, it’s pretty clear that the government of Belarus essentially hijacked the flight in order to arrest an enemy.
Belarus has received a huge amount of backlash from the international community for this, so the government has been doing everything in its power to justify what happened, including coming up with blatant lies, including blaming this on Hamas.
The government of Belarus has now released what it says is the ATC audio of the incident. The government also claims that a fighter jet wasn’t deployed until after the Ryanair pilots made the decision to divert to Belarus.
However, it’s worth noting that this ATC audio hasn’t been verified by a third party, and neither has the story of when the fighter jet was deployed.
Here’s the audio, as reported by Reuters:
Pilot: Yes, go ahead.
ATC: For your information, we have information from special services that you have bomb on board and it can be activated over Vilnius.
Pilot: Ok, could you repeat the message?
ATC: I say again, we have information from special services that you have bomb on board. That bomb can be activated over Vilnius.
Pilot: Roger that, standby.
ATC: For security reason we recommend you to land at UMMS. (ICAO code for Minsk airport)
Pilot: Ok…that..it..understood give us alternate please.
Pilot: The bomb….direct message, where did it come from? Where did you have information about it from?
ATC: Standby please.
Pilot: Go ahead.
ATC: Airport security staff informed they received e-mail.
Pilot: Roger, Vilnius airport security staff or from Greece?
ATC: This e-mail was shared to several airports.
Pilot: Roger, standby.
Pilot: Again, this recommendation to divert to Minsk where did it come from? Where did it come from? Company? Did it come from departure airport authorities or arrival airport authorities?
ATC: This is our recommendations.
Pilot: Can you say again?
ATC: This is our recommendations.
Pilot: Did you say that your recommendation?
ATC: Advise your decision please.
Pilot: I need answer the question: what is the code of the (unreadable) green, yellow or amber, red.
ATC: They say code is red.
Pilot: Roger that, in that case we request holding at present position.
ATC: Roger, hold over your position, maintain FL390 turns at own discretion.
Pilot: Ok holding at our discretion at present position maintaining FL390.
Pilot: We are declaring an emergency MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY RYR 1TZ. Our intentions would be to divert to Minsk airport.
That transcript mostly sounds reasonable enough, which isn’t to say that some stuff might not have been omitted, but rather it’s to say that it doesn’t sound totally off. Authorities from Belarus also claim that they attempted to contact Ryanair’s office in Lithuania by phone, but that they were unable to get in touch with anyone. That sounds believable as well. 😉
Nonetheless this story is still complete hogwash:
- Belarus air traffic control claims the bomb threat was shared with several airports, though we have no reason to believe any other airport got the same email
- Oh, and then there’s the whole little detail of how one of the biggest critics of the Belarusian dictator was onboard the flight, and was arrested
It seems to me like Belarus thought it could arrest a journalist and have it fly under the radar, but clearly the government is getting a lot more backlash than expected.
It’s interesting to see how Belarus’ government is trying to back its story, from blaming Hamas to releasing the alleged transcript of the discussion between pilots and controllers.
I’m curious to see what justification comes next…