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I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak in the Council today. I also thank ICAO Council President Sciacchitano for his briefing on the May 2021 incident in Belarus’ airspace involving Ryanair Flight FR4978.
We took note that the ICAO Council condemned the actions of the Government of Belarus and designated them an act of unlawful interference. Germany agrees with this assessment and condemns in the strongest terms the forced diversion and landing of the flight. As acknowledged by the ICAO Council, the claim of a bomb threat was deliberately false and communicated upon the instructions of senior government officials of Belarus. The sole purpose of this egregious act – which seriously endangered the safety of over 100 passengers and crew – was the pre-planned arrest of activist Roman Protasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega.
This shocking incident shows the true nature of the Belarusian regime which does everything in its power to silence the voices of its people. After rigging the August 2020 presidential election and violently suppressing public dissent, the authorities have organized a relentless campaign of persecution and intimidation to eradicate the formerly vibrant civil society and political opposition. Today, there are well over 1,300 political prisoners in Belarus, thousands more have been forced into exile. More than 700 civil society and charity organisations have been dissolved. Germany is appalled by these immense restrictions affecting all of Belarusian society and has hence expanded its support programs by setting up an “Action plan for civil society in Belarus”. The initiative supports, among others, students, independent media, and victims of state violence. It also funds the documentation of severe human rights crimes, for which the Lukashenko regime must be held accountable. To that end, we support the crucial efforts of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus jointly with our partners. Unfortunately, as the incident with the before-mentioned Ryanair flight shows, the repression does not stop at the borders of Belarus. The Lukashenko regime is furthermore actively engaged in spreading instability and fuelling war in Eastern Europe against the will of the vast majority of Belarusian citizens. In the early days of Russia`s war of aggression against Ukraine, Russian troops have attacked Ukraine from the territory of Belarus. Its territory has since been a staging ground for missile and drone attacks against Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, killing thousands of innocent Ukrainian citizens. Those Belarusian officials complicit in committing war crimes for Russia in Ukraine will be held to account.
We urge the government of Belarus to be on the right side of history and to immediately stop its support for Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. We further call on Minsk to free all political prisoners and to unconditionally end its campaign of domestic repression. Belarus must leave its path of self-destruction, a path towards isolation, oppression and poverty. It is not yet too late to reverse Course.