International Civil Aviation Organization to Conduct Investigation into ‘Hijacking’ of Ryanair Flight 4978

By Kurt Stolz on 2 June 2021
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The International Civil Aviation Organization said it opened an investigation into the purpose behind the diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978 which, on May 23 while operating from Athens to Vilnius.  Authorities in Belarus used the ruse of a bomb on board to divert the aircraft.

Once on the ground, authorities arrested Roman Protasevich, a dissident journalist who lived in exile in Vilnius.  No bomb was found.

The investigation is also addressing the repercussions for international flight over the region.

The ICAO Council, one of the group’s two governing bodies, met to discuss the “forced diversion” and to understand “whether there had been any breach by any ICAO Member State of international aviation law, including the Convention on International Civil Aviation [known as the Chicago Convention] and its Annexes,” the organization said in a statement.

The investigation of such an incident is permitted by Article 55 of the Chicago Convention governing international aviation agreements.

The CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, characterized the diversion as “state-sponsored piracy.“

The ICAO governing body decided that an in-depth investigation was required:  “The Council has therefore decided that all relevant facts should be officially established through an ICAO investigation conducted by the ICAO Secretariat,” it said in a statement.

Foreign ministers from multiple countries condemned the action.

The Greek Foreign Ministry called the incident a “state hijacking,” while Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland called it an “act of state terrorism.”

In Germany, Außenminister Heiko Maas said that “such an act cannot remain without clear consequences,” while his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, called for a “firm and unified response” by the European Union.

The American secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said: “We strongly condemn the Lukashenka regime’s brazen and shocking act to divert a commercial flight and arrest a journalist. We demand an international investigation and are coordinating with our partners on next steps.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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