“Bomb threat” email sent after Ryanair flight diverted by Belarus

Karolis Kavolelis/Shutterstock

The secure-email provider Proton Technologies said the “bomb threat” message used by Belarus to justify intercepting a Ryanair flight was sent minutes after the diversion.

The Aviation Department of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Belarus claimed an email, signed by “Hamas soldiers” was received by Minsk International Airport (MSQ) to warn of a bomb planted in the flight. The email warned that the attack was targeting participants of the Delphi Economic Forum, which took place in Athens between May 10 and 15, 2021. 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that the email was sent from Switzerland. The Palestinian organization had denied any involvement in the incident.

That email was used as a justification by the Belarusian regime for scrambling an armed Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet to divert Ryanair’s Boeing 737, registered as SP-RSM, as it was operating flight FR4978 from Athens (ATH), Greece, to Vilnius (VNO), Lithuania. 

After the flight was forced to land in Minsk (MSQ), two passengers identified as opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega were arrested by the KGB, the Belarusian security services.

But on May 26, 2021, the research group Dossier Center pointed at inconsistencies in the version of the Belarusian authorities. Indeed, the email sent from the user Ahmed Yurlanov to the National Airport of Minsk arrived at 12:57 local time, 27 minutes after the flight entered Belarus airspace, and 10 minutes after it diverted towards Minsk.

Proton Technologies, the encrypted email provider used to send the email, confirmed it was sent after the plane was diverted.

“We haven’t seen credible evidence that the Belarusian claims are true,” the Swiss company wrote in a statement. “We will support European authorities in their investigations upon receiving a legal request.”

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