The Minsk air traffic controller, who worked during the forced landing of the Ryanair plane with blogger Roman Protasevich on board, told Polish investigators that it was an operation by the Belarusian KGB. About it informs The New York Times citing sources.
The newspaper writes that in the summer the air traffic controller and his family illegally crossed the Belarusian-Polish state border together with migrants from the Middle East. In Poland, he told intelligence officers that he worked at the Minsk airport, so he has information about the forced landing of a Ryanair plane with blogger Roman Protasevich on board. According to the air traffic controller, the plane was landed as a result of a KGB operation.
Stanislav Zharin, spokesman for the Polish secret services’ coordinating minister, told the NYT that they were able to “obtain information from a direct witness to those events.”
“According to the witness, at the time of the incident with the plane, a KGB officer was in the control room. At the decisive moment he took control of the dispatch service and throughout the entire time constantly communicated with someone on the phone, reporting on the situation,” Zharin said.
The publication also writes that the ex-air traffic controller is Oleg Galegov. According to him, he was responsible for informing the pilot that there was a bomb on board and for “security reasons” it was necessary to land in Minsk.
In summer, the Nasha Niva newspaper reported that Belaeronavigatsia dispatcher Oleg Galegov, who negotiated with the pilot of the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius with ex-Nexta editor Roman Protasevich on board, left Belarus with his family.
In May, a Ryanair plane, flying from Athens to Vilnius, made an emergency landing in Minsk due to a false message about mining. On board were Protasevich and his girlfriend, Russian woman Sofya Sapega. After the plane landed at the airport, they were arrested. According to some reports, the Belarusian authorities forced the plane to land in Minsk, threatening it with a fighter jet, and the operation was personally authorized by Lukashenka.
Ryanair head Michael O’Leary previously talked about the pressure on the pilot of the plane from the controllers. According to him, the Belarusian air traffic controllers informed the flight crew of a “real threat” and warned that if he entered Lithuanian airspace, “a bomb would explode on board the aircraft.”
The captain of the aircraft, O’Leary said, had repeatedly asked to be connected to the Ryanair operations center in Warsaw, but dispatchers had refused to do so. According to him, the airliner could land in Poland or other Baltic countries, the pilot was not directly obliged to land the plane in Minsk. But there was “serious pressure” on the captain to land in Minsk, he said.