Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the ICAO Report on Belarus’ Diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978

Ambassador Jeffrey L. DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Security Council Affairs
New York, New York
October 31, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to Mr. Sciacchitano for your briefing. The United States expresses appreciation to the International Civil Aviation Organization and its Fact-Finding Investigation Team for painstakingly researching and comprehensively analyzing the events surrounding the unlawful, forced diversion of Ryanair Flight FR4978 at Minsk Airport in May 2021. It is unfortunate that the country whose actions were investigated has sought to discredit the investigation and ICAO. We encourage those who have doubts to read the public report for themselves. The report and investigation were expertly handled and a credit to the organization.

When the Council discussed this serious threat to international civil aviation last year, some Council members claimed it was premature to draw conclusions before ICAO had finished its investigation. Now we have the results: ICAO’s finding that the bomb threat against Ryanair Flight FR4978 was deliberately false, and that this false threat was communicated to the flight crew upon the instructions of senior regime officials in Belarus.

As we just heard, ICAO’s report established, without any doubt, that Belarus authorities manufactured a false bomb threat to force Flight 4978 to land in Minsk for the purpose of detaining an opposition journalist, in violation of Belarus’ obligations under the Convention on International Civil Aviation, better known as the Chicago Convention.

This act of unlawful interference put civilians in danger and undermined the fundamental trust between pilots and air traffic controllers in a way that could have wide-ranging safety repercussions for international civil aviation. The United States underscores and applauds the ICAO Assembly’s condemnation of Belarus’ violations of the Chicago Convention, in particular Article 4 prohibiting the misuse of civil aviation.

The ICAO Assembly’s show of unity in condemning Belarus’ actions sends the strong message that the international community will not stand for egregious acts of unlawfulness in international civil aviation. This Council must also send a clear message that such actions that threaten our skies are unacceptable.

The Lukashenka regime’s forced diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978 to detain passenger and independent Belarus journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega, was a violation of international aviation law, an act of transnational repression, and a manipulation of the civil air navigation system. There must be consequences for those responsible.

These are not the actions of a responsible international actor. We gather here in the Security Council, and throughout the multilateral system, charged with defending peace and security in the world, and we have a responsibility to put on record our denunciation of state actors who flagrantly violate their responsibilities and put their own ulterior interests ahead of international peace and security.

Since the Representative of Belarus is here today, I would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the United States calls on Belarus to release Sofia Sapega, to cease the intimidation and harassment of opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich, and for the unconditional release of the more than 1,300 political prisoners currently held by the regime.

Thank you, Mr. President.