Revealed: Transcript Between Belarus ATC & Ryanair Pilots

Revealed: Transcript Between Belarus ATC & Ryanair Pilots

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Over the weekend a Ryanair flight between Greece and Lithuania was diverted to Belarus in order for a journalist to be arrested. Belarus claimed to have received a bomb threat about this flight, blaming the diversion on that. However, it’s pretty clear that the government of Belarus essentially hijacked the flight in order to arrest an enemy.

Belarus has received a huge amount of backlash from the international community for this, so the government has been doing everything in its power to justify what happened, including coming up with blatant lies, including blaming this on Hamas.

The government of Belarus has now released what it says is the ATC audio of the incident. The government also claims that a fighter jet wasn’t deployed until after the Ryanair pilots made the decision to divert to Belarus.

However, it’s worth noting that this ATC audio hasn’t been verified by a third party, and neither has the story of when the fighter jet was deployed.

Here’s the audio, as reported by Reuters:

ATC: Minsk
Pilot: Yes, go ahead.
ATC: For your information, we have information from special services that you have bomb on board and it can be activated over Vilnius.
Pilot: Standby.
Pilot: Ok, could you repeat the message?
ATC: I say again, we have information from special services that you have bomb on board. That bomb can be activated over Vilnius.
Pilot: Roger that, standby.
ATC: For security reason we recommend you to land at UMMS. (ICAO code for Minsk airport)
Pilot: Ok…that..it..understood give us alternate please.
Pilot: The bomb….direct message, where did it come from? Where did you have information about it from?
ATC: Standby please.
Pilot: Go ahead.
ATC: Airport security staff informed they received e-mail.
Pilot: Roger, Vilnius airport security staff or from Greece?
ATC: This e-mail was shared to several airports.
Pilot: Roger, standby.
Pilot: Again, this recommendation to divert to Minsk where did it come from? Where did it come from? Company? Did it come from departure airport authorities or arrival airport authorities?
ATC: This is our recommendations.
Pilot: Can you say again?
ATC: This is our recommendations.
Pilot: Did you say that your recommendation?
ATC: Advise your decision please.
Pilot: I need answer the question: what is the code of the (unreadable) green, yellow or amber, red.
ATC: Standby.
ATC: They say code is red.
Pilot: Roger that, in that case we request holding at present position.
ATC: Roger, hold over your position, maintain FL390 turns at own discretion.
Pilot: Ok holding at our discretion at present position maintaining FL390.
Pilot: We are declaring an emergency MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY RYR 1TZ. Our intentions would be to divert to Minsk airport.

That transcript mostly sounds reasonable enough, which isn’t to say that some stuff might not have been omitted, but rather it’s to say that it doesn’t sound totally off. Authorities from Belarus also claim that they attempted to contact Ryanair’s office in Lithuania by phone, but that they were unable to get in touch with anyone. That sounds believable as well. 😉

Nonetheless this story is still complete hogwash:

  • Belarus air traffic control claims the bomb threat was shared with several airports, though we have no reason to believe any other airport got the same email
  • Oh, and then there’s the whole little detail of how one of the biggest critics of the Belarusian dictator was onboard the flight, and was arrested

Bottom line

It seems to me like Belarus thought it could arrest a journalist and have it fly under the radar, but clearly the government is getting a lot more backlash than expected.

It’s interesting to see how Belarus’ government is trying to back its story, from blaming Hamas to releasing the alleged transcript of the discussion between pilots and controllers.

I’m curious to see what justification comes next…

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  1. DenB®

    Putin loves this. Takes spotlight off Navalny.

    Thugs.

  2. Steve_CC

    Note to self if, i am ever wanted in a country and set to be tried punishable by the death penalty dont fly over their airspace under any circumstance. Take the long way or better yet dont fly if you are wanted internationally especially during covid. Also dont fly over an area that is engaging in current warfare yet that lesson seems to be forgotten every few years or so.

  3. Joe Chivas

    Rounding up and silencing the political opposition is just what dictators do. Thankfully here in the US we're dealing with someone too old, confused, and inept to inflict too much damage. But it could be worse next time, much worse.

  4. tom

    indeed, getting email notification of bomb threat is not credible. Pilot sounds somewhat skeptical but really had no choice, if he were to ignore it and it turned out to be legit , worst case everyone dies, best case his career is toast

  5. Peter

    Ben, I have to ask - what's the point of puting this out there if it's not verified? Been reading long enough to remember the other couple of times that backfired on you...

    I understand the need to "break" news and get it out quickly, but this seems like something that could have waited until you're 100% sure.

  6. Vijay

    The world should not stand for the Silencing of political opposition and arresting people just for protesting elections. Forcing planes down to arrest journalists is the stuff of authoritarian dictatorships.
    Or deep-state run mirages of democracy.
    Funny how when the US does something it is “to protect democracy” but when another country does the exact same thing it is an “attack on democracy”.
    Not condoning Belarus atrocious actions. But unfortunately US has...

    The world should not stand for the Silencing of political opposition and arresting people just for protesting elections. Forcing planes down to arrest journalists is the stuff of authoritarian dictatorships.
    Or deep-state run mirages of democracy.
    Funny how when the US does something it is “to protect democracy” but when another country does the exact same thing it is an “attack on democracy”.
    Not condoning Belarus atrocious actions. But unfortunately US has lost any credibility to manage this situation at all.

  7. Grzegorz

    @Peter

    Waiting on it would be essentially omitting attempts of covering piracy by a dictatorship. At least now "the West" can see how bad Belarus actually is.

  8. chasgoose

    To those criticizing Ben, even though this is obviously edited by the Belarusian government (I mean clearly there had to be missing pieces from the transcript that further explain how they got the pilot to agree to land, as he goes from very skeptical to agreement very quickly), it’s still newsworthy to see their brazen attempts to justify what happened.

    Also @Steve_CC, can you name a single other incident where a commercial airliner was forced...

    To those criticizing Ben, even though this is obviously edited by the Belarusian government (I mean clearly there had to be missing pieces from the transcript that further explain how they got the pilot to agree to land, as he goes from very skeptical to agreement very quickly), it’s still newsworthy to see their brazen attempts to justify what happened.

    Also @Steve_CC, can you name a single other incident where a commercial airliner was forced to divert in order to “extradite” an accused criminal (also it’s not like Protasevich is “wanted internationally” he’s only wanted by Belarus and most other countries refused extradition)? Why would Protasevich have any reason to believe a literal hijacking could happen when it has never happened before? Like sure, now any political refugee is on notice to avoid Belarus airspace until Lukashenko is removed or sufficiently cowed to stop, but the victim blaming in this case is a bit much and only serves to legitimize Belarus’s actions.

  9. chasgoose

    Wanted to just add that given that Protasevich fled to Vilnius, it’s not super easy to avoid Belarusian airspace as Vilnius is less than 50 km from the border with Belarus.

  10. Dick Bupkiss

    Wouldn't the flight attempt to contact Ryanair HQ to confer with them before deciding what to do? You know, they do have more than one radio on the plane...they could have easily contacted Vilnius, asked them to get in touch with Ryanair Corp, and confer. It's not unusual for flights to call home when looking for more info (or confirmation) when deciding on a diversion.

    Even with this edited version from the thugs in Minsk,...

    Wouldn't the flight attempt to contact Ryanair HQ to confer with them before deciding what to do? You know, they do have more than one radio on the plane...they could have easily contacted Vilnius, asked them to get in touch with Ryanair Corp, and confer. It's not unusual for flights to call home when looking for more info (or confirmation) when deciding on a diversion.

    Even with this edited version from the thugs in Minsk, you can sense some real skepticism from the crew.

  11. echino

    Russian propaganda likes to compare this to the Bolivian president and Snowden incident. They have a valid point though. Imagine Snowden on a regular Aeroflot flight SVO-HAV, within US airspace. Do you seriously think US would not force it to land?

  12. Bobo Bolinski

    So much Trumpist/Russian propaganda and simple what-aboutism here. Putin's trolls really love your website, Ben.

    It's 1939, Ben. Time to decide which side you're on.

  13. S

    "It seems to me like Belarus thought it could arrest a foreign journalist and have it fly under the radar, but clearly the government is getting a lot more backlash than expected."

    What backlash? Belarusian people forced to stay in their country? Flights using more Russian-made oil/gas to fly around Belarus? Strongly worded statements from politicians? Lol

  14. KobeB

    @chasgoose
    https://www.ctvnews.ca/mobile/passenger-arrested-after-plane-diverted-to-montreal-1.517292

    Good enough?

  15. Steve_CC

    @chasgoose

    No I can’t name you a time where this happened obviously. This whole story is ridiculous. But planes divert and have to land prematurely for plenty of reasons. Why take the risk? My flight last week had to land in another state due to weather. Why would I risk the 1% chance of landing somewhere where I will be killed if I enter that country?

  16. profan

    @chasgoose:

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/aeromexico-flight-diverted-passenger-arrested/

    https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/160728

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/04/forcing-down-morales-plane-air-piracy

    https://armenpress.am/eng/news/864893

  17. snic

    @S: exactly. Some politicians have issued *strongly worded statements*. Ooh, boy, I bet Lukashenko is scared. What's needed is a swift and severe punishment, like freezing Belarus' assets and threatening to confiscate them unless they release the journalist.

  18. upstater

    In 2016 the Ukraine sent military jets to force a plane flying from Kiev to Minsk to return to Kiev. The authorities were looking for a certain passenger on board who was later found to have be the wrong man.

    https://armenpress.am/eng/news/864893

    The aircraft was no longer even in Ukrainian airspace. Has anyone here ever heard of the 2016 Ukrainian diversion? I never did.

    We should also note that the arrested Roman Protasevich was reported to...

    In 2016 the Ukraine sent military jets to force a plane flying from Kiev to Minsk to return to Kiev. The authorities were looking for a certain passenger on board who was later found to have be the wrong man.

    https://armenpress.am/eng/news/864893

    The aircraft was no longer even in Ukrainian airspace. Has anyone here ever heard of the 2016 Ukrainian diversion? I never did.

    We should also note that the arrested Roman Protasevich was reported to have been associated with the neo Nazi Azov Brigade in Ukraine (these guys have openly display swastikas on the uniforms) and far right extremists in Belarus. Given what happened in DC on January 6, should we give all Proud Boys frequent flyer elite status? How many Proud Boys are in the slammer awaiting trial based on TSA and US airline information now?

    Publicity and pearl clutching only matters depending which side in a cold war is ordering a commercial aircraft to divert. And the 2013 diversion of the diplomatically protected jet of the Bolivian president's plane in the hope to arrest Eric Snowden if far beyond what happened to the Ryanair flight.

  19. Shawn

    @echino - The difference is we’re a democracy. We can protest against our leaders, say their idiots, etc. Snowden was treasonist. It’s an apples to oranges comparison. Giving intel to a foreign advisory vs. protesting against a regimen aren’t comparable.

    Snowden should be prosecuted. That’s why he’s in Russia because anywhere else in Europe would have extradited him.

  20. Jake

    Do any foreign parties (i.e not the Belarus government/media) have access to the ATC recording and any relevant information needed to piece together a timeline? Would be interesting to know as there was 30 minutes between the Ryanair flight making the initial turn towards Minsk and then touching down. As far as I'm aware, the Belarus airforce doesn't have a 'quick reaction alert' squadron/programme meaning that there likely weren't any MIG-29s ready to takeoff at...

    Do any foreign parties (i.e not the Belarus government/media) have access to the ATC recording and any relevant information needed to piece together a timeline? Would be interesting to know as there was 30 minutes between the Ryanair flight making the initial turn towards Minsk and then touching down. As far as I'm aware, the Belarus airforce doesn't have a 'quick reaction alert' squadron/programme meaning that there likely weren't any MIG-29s ready to takeoff at a moments notice UNLESS it was already planned... Perhaps what's more apparent is that 5 mins before turning towards Minsk, the flight was just west of Baranavičy airbase which is where the MIG-29s are based. Theres no doubt that this was all orchestrated by the Belarus government but I still think it will be really interesting to find out where/when the flight was intercepted as that should likely be strong enough evidence.

  21. 02nz

    "It seems to me like Belarus thought it could arrest a foreign journalist and have it fly under the radar ..." He was not a foreign journalist, rather a Belarussian blogger/activist. (Just correcting for factual accuracy.)

  22. Adam

    @upstater:

    Look, you certainly hit every Kremlin greatest-hits talking point -- US bad, Ukraine baaaad, all Eastern European pro-democracy activists are neo-Nazis -- but your attempts to deflect aren't working.

    Belarus, with Putin's obvious support, issued a bomb threat to a commercial airliner to kidnap a legally protected pro-democracy dissident. Then, as the subsequent hostage video -- I mean, "confession" -- makes clear, they beat that dissident violently.

    Belarus has become a violent Russian...

    @upstater:

    Look, you certainly hit every Kremlin greatest-hits talking point -- US bad, Ukraine baaaad, all Eastern European pro-democracy activists are neo-Nazis -- but your attempts to deflect aren't working.

    Belarus, with Putin's obvious support, issued a bomb threat to a commercial airliner to kidnap a legally protected pro-democracy dissident. Then, as the subsequent hostage video -- I mean, "confession" -- makes clear, they beat that dissident violently.

    Belarus has become a violent Russian puppet state and its dictator, Lukashenko, should be squeezed so hard his little Hitlerstache falls off. Diplomatically, of course ;)

  23. Dan

    The propaganda war between the nationalists and the globalists sure makes things confusing. That being said I can tell when I'm reading a slanted article. I guess it depends on which side a person supports and if an open mind prevails.

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Dan

The propaganda war between the nationalists and the globalists sure makes things confusing. That being said I can tell when I'm reading a slanted article. I guess it depends on which side a person supports and if an open mind prevails.

Adam

@upstater: Look, you certainly hit every Kremlin greatest-hits talking point -- US bad, Ukraine baaaad, all Eastern European pro-democracy activists are neo-Nazis -- but your attempts to deflect aren't working. Belarus, with Putin's obvious support, issued a bomb threat to a commercial airliner to kidnap a legally protected pro-democracy dissident. Then, as the subsequent hostage video -- I mean, "confession" -- makes clear, they beat that dissident violently. Belarus has become a violent Russian puppet state and its dictator, Lukashenko, should be squeezed so hard his little Hitlerstache falls off. Diplomatically, of course ;)

02nz

"It seems to me like Belarus thought it could arrest a foreign journalist and have it fly under the radar ..." He was not a foreign journalist, rather a Belarussian blogger/activist. (Just correcting for factual accuracy.)

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