Belarus denies that it forced a Ryanair plane to land at Minsk airport last May. On Thursday evening, four high-ranking Belarusian officials were charged in the United States with air piracy.
President Alexander Lukashenko responded Friday to state news agency Belta by saying that the Belarusians had not intercepted the flight. On board, the plane that was en route from Greece to Lithuania was Belarusian opposition member Roman Protasevich, who was arrested after a forced landing in the Belarusian capital.
The four accused Belarusians remain at large for the time being. They are suspected of having staged a bomb threat in order to lead Protasevich’s flight to Minsk.
There were four Americans on board the plane, and prosecutors say “U.S. law was recklessly violated”. “The next pilot to receive a bomb threat could question its authenticity,” an FBI spokesman said.
Yet the American indictment, which is supported by the FBI, among others, means little in practice. In the U.S., the individuals would face life imprisonment, but they remain at large in Belarus. President Alexander Lukashenko has not been charged.
Europe, Britain and the United States imposed sanctions on Lukashenko’s regime over the incident last year.