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Belarus And Ukraine Settle Belavia Return Dispute

Ukraine apologized for the forced return of Belavia flight and agreed to compensate costs. The incident was discussed by presidents of the two countries on Thursday, November 10.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (R) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during their meeting in Minsk, August 26, 2014. Russia and Ukraine said last Tuesday their presidents would meet together with top European Union officials in Belarus's capital of Minsk on August 26 to discuss their confrontation over Ukraine which has plunged relations to an all-time low. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor (BELARUS - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR43T11

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko apologized for the incident with Belavia flight in conversation with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko. Poroshenko said that the guilty were punished, the press service of the Belarusian president reported last week. A telephone conversation between the heads of the two states took place on 10 November on the initiative of the Ukrainian side.

The press service the Ukrainian leader also issued a statement about the conversation, but their message did not contain any information about the apology. The presidents agreed to hold a personal meeting by the end of the year.

Earlier last week Ukrainian aviation authorities promised to compensate the costs of the aircraft’s return, while SBU, the Security Service of Ukraine, explained the motives of their decision.

They said they had forced the Boeing to return to Zhulyany airport because of a passenger who they believed to be a pro-Russian provocator.

In a statement to Interfax Ukraine, the SBU spokesman said the passenger, an Armenian citizen Armen Martirosyan, “is directly contacting persons who are participating in protests organized in the framework of a plan developed by Russia to destabilize the situation in Ukraine by Ukrainian civil society organizations”.

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Belavia’s Boeing 737-800 en route from Kiev Zhulyany to Minsk was ordered to return to Zhulyany airport on Friday, October 21, in what appears to be a demand by authorities because of interest in one of the aircraft’s passengers.  After the aircraft landed in Kiev, SBU officers removed Armen Martirosya from the plane and searched him. After refuelling, the flight left for Minsk.

As Belavia stated that its pilots were threated by fighter jets in case of a refusal to return the plane, the Belarusian side demanded explanation from Ukraine. When no immediate reaction followed, the Belarusian MFA published a script of talks between the captain and the flight operations officer to prove the fact of the threat.