A Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS aircraft lands at El Prat airport in Barcelona on July 1, 2022. - Nine flights to and from Spain were cancelled on July 1 and dozens of others delayed due to a strike by cabin crew at low-cost airlines Ryanair and EasyJet. The strike over pay and working conditions comes as European schools are breaking up for the summer. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has closed its investigation into the forced landing of a Ryanair plane by Belarus in May last year. The Montreal, Canada-based organization said on Tuesday that the Icao Council condemned the actions of the Belarusian government, which had “illegally interfered” with aviation.

The alleged bomb threat that forced Ryanair flight FR4978 to land in Minsk was “deliberately false” and “endangered the safety of the plane,” Icao said. The threat was sent to the flight crew “on the orders of high-ranking Belarusian government officials.”

On May 23, 2021, the authorities in authoritarian Belarus forced a Ryanair plane on its way from the Greek capital Athens to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius under the pretext of a bomb threat and with a fighter jet to make a stopover in Minsk. The opposition figure Roman Protasevich, who lives in exile in Poland and Lithuania, and his Russian-born girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested there.

The procedure had triggered sharp international criticism of Belarus. The EU members and other western states like the USA reacted with sanctions against the country.

The Icao’s investigation into the forced landing has been extended several times to gather missing elements. According to its own statements, the organization recently evaluated, among other things, recordings of the air traffic controller in Minsk who was responsible for the flight.

The investigation report is now to be handed over to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. According to Icao’s Tuesday statement, the Russian representative on the organization’s council “strongly objected” to Belarus being named as “the source of the illegal interference.” Russia and Belarus are close allies.