Europeans, members of the UN Security Council, and the United States called on Wednesday for a “Urgent investigation” : They have been heard. At the end of an emergency meeting, held Thursday, May 27 in Montreal (Canada), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) announced the opening of a “Factual investigation” on the Sunday interception of a Ryanair commercial flight through Belarus.
ICAO highlighted “The importance of establishing the facts about what happened and of understanding whether there has been a violation of international aviation law by an ICAO Member State, including the Convention [de Chicago] on international civil aviation and its annexes ”.
This convention indicates that “Each Contracting State agrees not to use civil aviation for any purpose incompatible with the aims of this Convention”. Or, “The Ryanair flight was rerouted for reasons unrelated to civil aviation”, estimated the DGAC, the French Civil Aviation Directorate.
An investigation in the form of a challenge
ICAO’s decision was taken during an emergency closed-door meeting of its governing body, to which the 36 diplomatic representatives of the Council were convened.
“At this meeting, the decision to launch an investigation was not voted on, said a representative present at the meeting. But two countries have expressed their opposition to such an investigation: Russia and China. Russia has defended Belarus’ side of the story, accusing Westerners of having already made up their minds before even considering the facts. “
“Arguments taken up by the Chinese representative, in a more discreet and calm manner, but nevertheless warning against the fact of not prejudging the results of the investigation”, he indicates.
ICAO will submit, by the end of June, a “Progress investigation report”, saccording to this same source. “A team of officials from the agency’s general secretariat will be set up from tomorrow [vendredi] to conduct these investigations, with specialists in safety, security, and legal affairs. This survey will be a real challenge because all the States involved in the event must make their contribution ”, according to this participant.
The countries involved are, therefore, according to him:
- Poland, country of registration of the aircraft;
- Lithuania, destination of the flight;
- Greece as the State of origin of the flight;
- Ireland as the nationality of the operator;
- and Belarus, which made its own report, already transmitted to ICAO.
The ICAO, whose mission is to lay down the rules governing civil air transport, does not however have any sanctioning power.
Lukashenko-Putin meeting on Friday
The regime of Alexander Lukashenko is accused of having hijacked Sunday, by means of a fighter plane, a plane of Ryanair towards Minsk in order to arrest the dissident journalist Roman Protassevich, which earned him European sanctions including the closure of the airspace of the European Union.
Mr. Lukashenko claims, for his part, to have acted “Legally” under the pretext of a bomb threat. The Belarusian president thus rejected allegations that he hijacked the flight in order to arrest Protassevich. Qualified for “Terrorist” by Mr. Lukachenko, the opponent was however arrested on landing in Minsk, just like his Russian companion, Sofia Sapega.
Belarus has the unfailing support of its Russian ally in this matter. Alexander Lukashenko is to be welcomed by Vladimir Putin on Friday at his summer residence in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, in southern Russia, officially to talk about ” the integration “ between the two former Soviet republics, a project that Moscow has long cherished, and their “Common projects, in particular economic” , according to the Kremlin website.
But Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has already set the tone on Thursday by insisting that the West must “Stop demonizing those he doesn’t like”.