On 23rd May a Ryanair Boeing 737 was intercepted by a MiG-29 fighter jet, being diverted to Minsk and an opposition activist has been detained upon arrival.

Flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius was “notified by Belarus ATC of a potential threat risk onboard” and changed course to “the nearest airport, Minsk” according to a Ryanair statement. Roman Protasevich, a well-known opposition activist and blogger, was arrested on arrival; allegedly under the instructions of the Belarusian government. Reuters reported that he is on a wanted list in the wake of large demonstrations following last year’s elections.

Following are excerpts from the transcript, which Reuters was unable to verify. The aircraft call sign was RYR 1TZ.

Controllers inform pilot of bomb, suggests landing in Minsk

  • Controller: Minsk
    • Pilot: Yes, go ahead.
  • Controller: 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?
  • Controller: 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.
  • Controller: 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 asks for further details

  • 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?
  • Controller: This is our recommendations.
    • Pilot: Can you say again?
  • Controller: This is our recommendations.
    • Pilot: (unreadable.)
    • Pilot: Did you say that your recommendation?

Pilot agrees to land in Minsk

  • Controller: Advise your decision please.
    • Pilot: I need answer the question: what is the code of the (unreadable) green, yellow or amber, red.
  • Controller: Standby.
  • Controller: They say code is red.
    • Pilot: Roger that, in that case we request holding at present position.
  • Controller: 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.
  • ATC: RYR 1TZ MAYDAY, Roger. Standby for vectors.

Source: Reuters