Belarus searches second Lufthansa plane after ‘terrorist’ warning, after kidnapping of dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich
Minsk Airport in Belarus suspended the boarding of a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and searched the plane, claiming it had received a warning about a possible terrorist act that had not been confirmed.
It comes after Belarusian authorities on Sunday scrambled a fighter jet and reported what turned out to be a false bomb threat to force a Ryanair plane to land, then arrested dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich, who was on board. , causing the condemnation of European countries, the United States. States and NATO.
Tonight, Artiom Sikorskiy, director of aviation at the Belarusian transport ministry, said in an online briefing that the country grounded the Ryanair flight after receiving an email bomb threat signed by people claiming to be Hamas fighters.
Lufthansa said in a written statement on Monday that authorities in Minsk, following a security alert, unloaded baggage and cargo from flight LH1487 and carried out new security checks on 56 people on board, including five members. crew.
Minsk Airport said passenger, baggage and aircraft screening measures had been completed and the plane was once again preparing for departure. The airport was operating normally, he said.
“The message regarding the terrorist attack, which had been received earlier by email from the airport, has not been confirmed,” the airport said.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority said tonight it has suspended all foreign carrier licenses held by Belarusian air carriers until further notice.
“This suspension applies to the two scheduled operators, including the Belarusian airline Belavia, as well as to the chartered air carriers,” he said.
“The Civil Aviation Authority has also issued a notice to all airlines registered in the UK asking them to avoid overflight of any territory of the Republic of Belarus.”
The United Kingdom summoned the Belarusian ambassador to London to explain the forced landing of a commercial plane and the arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich, according to Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.
Raab told parliament on Monday that Belarus’ actions were “a blatant and extraordinary departure from international law.”
“It is very hard to believe that this kind of action could have been taken without at least the agreement of the authorities in Moscow,” Raab said.
Italy’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned the Belarusian ambassador to protest after Belarus forced an airliner to land in Minsk on Sunday and arrested a journalist on board.
In a statement, the ministry said the “kidnapping” of Roman Protasevich was an “unacceptable act, which constitutes a very serious violation of international aviation safety regulations and for which Belarus will be held to account.”
It comes as European Union leaders begin to discuss possible measures against Belarus.
The 27 leaders will consider further sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s administration when the two-day summit begins in Brussels at 7 p.m. European Council President Charles Michel called the incident an “international scandal”.
Potential measures could also include suspending flights over Belarus, banning the country’s national airline from landing at EU airports and blocking land transit to the bloc from Belarus, according to a person close to preparations for the summit.
For now, even though Ryanair calls the interception an “act of air piracy”, the Irish carrier – like many other airlines – is still flying over Belarusian airspace.
It could be complicated for airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace given its location and the fact that there are other restricted flight zones nearby, according to the director general of the International Air Transport Association Willie. Walsh. He told Guy Johnson and Alix Steel of Bloomberg Television that airlines still flying over Belarus will have assessed the risk.
“We must strongly condemn the actions of the Belarusian government,” said the former head of Aer Lingus. “What they did on Sunday, intercepting a civilian civilian plane, clearly endangered the passengers and crew of that plane. Forcing them to divert is unacceptable behavior on the part of any government.”