American justice announced, Thursday, January 20, the indictment of four Belarusian officials accused of having diverted a Ryanair plane in 2021 to arrest the opposition journalist Roman Protassevich who was on board.
According to a statement from the Manhattan federal prosecutor, they are charged with a “conspiracy to commit an act of piracy to divert Ryanair flight 4978” of May 23, 2021, which linked Athens to Vilnius, to Minsk airport “in response to an alleged bomb threat on board the plane”.
In detail, the American justice accuses “Belarusian government officials Leonid Mikalaevich Churo, Oleg Kazyuchits”, and two others, with incomplete or unknown identities “to have participated centrally in the conspiracy”. MM. Churo and Kazyuchits are director and deputy director of Belarusian civil aviation. The other two are officers of the Belarusian state security services.
” On the run “
The four men reside in Belarus, and are considered ” on the run “ by American justice. There was on board this Ryanair flight “four American nationals and more than a hundred other passengers”, according to the press release of the federal prosecutor of Manhattan, Damian Williams.
By sending a fighter jet to intercept Ryanair flight FR4978 linking Greece to Lithuania on May 23, 2021, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko sparked international outrage. The commercial flight had been forced to land in Minsk and the Belarusian authorities had arrested the dissident journalist, Roman Protassevich, and his partner Sofia Sapega who were on board. Several countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union, had announced sanctions against Minsk.