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Cостоялось заседание Совета ИКАО

 27 мая 2021 года в формате видеоконференции состоялось заседание Совета ИКАО по вопросу посадки воздушного судна авиакомпании Ryanair в Национальном аэропорту Минск, в котором приняли участие 36 государств - членов Совета ИКАО, а также приглашены в качестве заинтересованных сторон представители Литвы, Польши и Ирландии.  От Республики Беларусь с докладом выступил директор Департамента по авиации Артем Сикорский.



by Artem Sikorsky

Director of the Department of Aviation


Dear President of the ICAO Council, dear Madam Secretary General, dear Council Members, distinguished participants,

Allow me to thank you for the opportunity to speak before the meeting relating to the landing of Ryanair flight FR 4978 at Minsk airport on 23 May 2021.

I would like to draw the attention of the esteemed Council to the fact that as a result of the unplanned landing no victims, no damage to the health of the passengers or the crew members and no damage to the aircraft occurred. Therefore it is not quite correct to speak about the “incident”. In accordance with the ICAO terminology, we should speak about the act of unlawful interference.

Currently in Belarus, as required by the National Programme for the Protection of Civil Aviation from Acts of Unlawful Interference, an ad-hoc commission is investigating circumstances of the event. I would like to present preliminary results of its work to you.

As we informed earlier, on May 23, 2021 at 09.25 UTC and at 09.56 UTC a message in English was received at Minsk Airport e-mail address from   protonmail.com , which we already cited.  

Pursuant to Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention and the National Programme for the Protection of Civil Aviation from Acts of Unlawful Interference, the response mechanism to acts of unlawful interference with civil aviation was activated upon receipt of this information .

This information from Minsk airport was duly forwarded to the ATC service of Belaeronavigatsia, the ANS Provider.

Ryanair flight FR4978 (call-sign RYR 1TZ) flying from Athens (Greece) to Vilnius (Lithuania), entered Belarus airspace at 09.29 h UTC at FL 390.

At 09.31 h UTC the ATC informed the crew about the possible presence of an explosive device on board the aircraft, and for security reasons recommended the flight to land at Minsk aerodrome as the nearest aerodrome within its area of responsibility.

At 09.35h UTC Belarus ATC transmitted the threat information to Vilnius ATC.

At 09.42 UTC the crew contacted Vilnius on frequency 131.750 and at that moment already Vilnius was the closest aerodrome for the aircraft. 

At 09.44 UTC the pilot asked about the threat level, and the ATC informed that the level code was red.

The red level was established because the threat information was perceived as a real threat, according to Supplement B to Attachment 38 to the Aviation Security Manual Doc 8973, and also due to the fact that since early 2021 three cases of acts of unlawful interference occurred in Belarus. Thus, on 30 January 2021 because of an anonymous threat received and assessed, Belavia flight proceeding from Minsk to Stockholm was returned to the departure aerodrome.

At 09.47 UTC the crew set the transponder to emergency code 7700, radioed distress signal "MAYDAY" and requested conditions for landing at Minsk aerodrome. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that at the moment of taking this decision the aircraft was no further than 2 minutes flight from the Lithuanian border and could uninterruptedly continue the flight to the destination aerodrome Vilnius. 

At 10.15 UTC the flight safely landed at Minsk airport.

However, having no flight voice recorder data and no crew report, as required by Standard 13.5 of Annex 6 to the Chicago Convention, the commission has no sufficient information about the following:

1.                Why did the crew decide to land at Minsk airport while Vilniusairport was much closer?

2.                What advise did Vilnius give to the crew? 

According to the Commission, the ATC, the pilot-in-command, the forces and the services deployed at Minsk airport acted in compliance with the mandatory Standards of Annexes 2, 6, 11 and 17 to the Chicago Convention.

Belarus notified about the event 27 Contracting States, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Interstate Aviation Committee and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

We would like to underscore that the pilot-in-command took his own decision to land at Minskairport, without any pressure or compulsion from the Belarusian side. As an evidence of this fact, a typescript of the ATC-pilot radiotelephony exchange was sent to all interested parties. This is also confirmed by the transcript of the negotiations between the ATC supervisors of Minsk and Vilnius.

In this regard we would like to submit the following question to the Council: “What international aviation regulation has Belarus broken, in respect of safeguarding the civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference?”

In 2017 ICAO conducted an aviation security audit in Belarus. The level of ICAO Standards implementation was established at the rate of 94.3 %. Level of response mechanism against acts of unlawful interference was determined to be 100 %.

At the same time, the European Union countries and some other states, while having no objective information about the circumstances of the event, including the radiotelephony exchange between ATC and the crew, already on 24 May 2021 groundlessly announced the necessity to introduce sanctions against Belarus civil aviation.

On 26 May 2021 Belavia flight from Minsk to Barcelona, while having all permissions as of the time of departure, was denied entry into French airspace, when it was already airborne.

Distinguished President of the ICAO Council, Madam Secretary General and the Council Members, we would ask you to give your assessment of these actions made by the European counties, within the context of Chicago convention.

In violation of the existing dispute settlement procedures pursuant to Articles 84 to 87 of the Chicago Convention, these sanctions include ban on flights by Belavia, the Belarusian national carrier, to European destinations, though Belavia has nothing to do with the event under consideration.

We wonder why do the European Union states introduce selective, discriminating and voluntary sanctions against Belavia? Belarus considers that such actions are intolerable and have no legal grounds.

We would like to draw attention of the ICAO Council to the event which occurred in the Ukrainian airspace in 2016. During Belavia passenger flight en route Kyiv-Minsk after take-off the Ukrainian ATC instructed the flight crew to return to the departure airport, with a threat to use Ukrainian air forces in case of disobedience.  

Then the European Union and other parties did not take any actions in respect of Ukraine. No official statement was made, no sanctions were introduced, including sanctions against Ukrainian carriers.

We would like to once again invite international experts to take part in the investigation of all circumstances of this act of unlawful interference occurred on 23 May 2021.

In this situation, if ICAO does not express its position about the necessity to conduct an unbiased investigation and does not make an objective assessment of the event, then a dangerous precedent will be set in the global civil aviation. And as result of this the States might leave anonymous threats to civil aviation facilities without proper response, because they would be afraid of political sanctions from other States or States’ associations, in violation of the international standards.

It seems to us that there is a tendency to forget the words from the preamble to the Chicago convention saying that the future development of international civil aviation can greatly help to create and preserve friendship and understanding among the nations and peoples of the world, while a misuse of the convention could pose a threat to the common safety.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.