Updated at 21:00,11-10-2019

Ukrainian authorities force Minsk-bound plane to fly back to Kyiv

Alyaksey Areshka, Naviny.by

Ukrainian authorities force Minsk-bound plane to fly back to Kyiv
Ukrainian security authorities on October 21 forced a passenger jet of Belarus’ national airline Belavia en route from Kyiv to Minsk to return to the departure airport.

"A Belavia Boeing 737-800, Tail Number EW-456PA, Flight B2-840 from Zhuliany (Kyiv) to Minsk, was forced to return to the departure airport. There were 136 passengers and six crew on board," Belavia said in a statement.

The aircraft departed Kyiv Zhuliany International Airport at 3:25 p.m.

"At 3:36 p.m., 50 kilometers before the plane would enter Belarus` airspace, the aircraft captain received an order from the Kyiv district air traffic control center, which is part of Ukraerorukh, Ukraine’s state air traffic services company, to immediately return to the departure airport,” Belavia said. “No explanation was given. It was also said that if the order was disobeyed, jet fighters would be scrambled."

According to Belavia, the captain obeyed the order and started to descend at 3:37 p.m.

Immediately after the aircraft landed at the Zhuliany airport at 3:55 p.m., Ukrainian security officers took one of its passengers, a citizen of Armenia, off the plane. After refueling, the aircraft departed at 4:37 p.m. and safely landed at Minsk International Airport at 5:33 p.m.

The suspect was later freed and he departed to Minsk by Belavia’s Flight B2-830 at 7:00 p.m.

Belavia said it would demand that Ukraerorukh compensate it for the costs related to the aircraft`s return to Kyiv Zhuliany International Airport.

The airline offered apologies for the inconveniences that might have been caused by the incident.

Valeriy Dzhyhun, Ukraine’ charge d’affaires to Belarus, was summoned Saturday to the Belarusian foreign ministry to be handed a note of protest in connection with the incident.

The ministry said in the note that Belarus was expecting official apologies and demanding compensation for the financial losses suffered as a result of the Ukrainian authorities’ actions.

The ministry also ordered Ihar Sokal, the Belarusian ambassador to Ukraine, to deliver a similar note to the Ukrainian foreign ministry.

According to Ukrainian news agencies, the Belavia aircraft was forced to return to Kyiv because Armen Martirosyan, described as a prominent “anti-Maidan” activist, was on board the plane.

Mr. Martirosyan, who moved from Kyiv to Moscow in 2014, is known for being one of the writers for the news website Ukraina.ru run by Russia’s government-owned news agency Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today).

After arriving in Minsk, Mr. Martirosyan promised in his Facebook post that he would inform reporters about the details of the incident after he consulted lawyers.

The Belavia plane was returned to the departure airport because of the need to conduct the necessary inspections to make sure that “any threat to both the national interests of Ukraine and the national security of our state has been localized,” Oleksandr Tkachuk, chief of staff at the Security Service of Ukraine, told reporters on Saturday.

Both the Security Service of Ukraine and the air traffic control agencies acted within their powers and in accordance with international civil aviation rules, Mr. Tkachuk stressed.

He also denied that the Belarusian aircraft had been forced to fly back to Kyiv under the threat of using jet fighters. “I think it is somewhat absurd to believe that our military aircraft may be used against a civilian plane,” he said.

Mr. Tkachuk said he would not speak about the person who was the cause of the incident and the reason he had been wanted back in Kyiv, saying that this was classified information.