Ryanair flight 4978: DOT suggests banning US-Belarus ticket sales

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an order proposing to prohibit the sale of passenger air transportation between the US and Belarus. 

The order would ban selling airline tickets, including the ones on an interline basis, to and from the Belarusian Republic.

The DOT said it is reacting to a request from the Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who relayed his concern in a letter to the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

“In light of the Government of Belarus’ diversion of Ryanair flight 4978 on May 23, 2021,and pending the final outcome of an investigation of the incident by the International Civil Aviation Organization, it is in the foreign policy interests of the United States to limit transportation between the United States and Belarus,” the letter reads.

The Department’s order allows the public to comment on the order until July 1, 2021. So far, the proposed document received just under 150 comments, many of them arguing that the order would mostly affect family ties of the United States citizens who have family members in Belarus. 

On May 23, 2021, Ryanair flight 4978 from Athens (ATH), Greece, to Vilnius (VNO), Lithuania, was hailed by Belarusian air traffic control, claiming a bomb was planted in the aircraft.

After the Boeing 737 was diverted and landed in Minsk (MSQ), Belarus, under the escort of an armed Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet, two passengers identified as opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega were arrested by the KGB, the Belarusian security services.

The incident caused an international outcry. The International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations aviation agency, opened an investigation into the incident under the suspicion of the infringement of Chicago Convention Article 4 on misuse of civil aviation. 

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