Ukraine has not yet responded to a note handed over to it on October 22 after the incident with Belavia’s plane, that was forced back to the airport in Kiev. As no immediate reaction followed, the Belarusian side promised to reveal the transcript of pilot’s talks with the flight operations officer who ordered the captain to return to Zhulyany airport under threat to deploy fighter aircraft.
The text was published by one of the Belarusian newspapers on Tuesday, 1 November.
Belavia’s Boeing, operating flight B2 840, took off from Kiev at 15:25 local time with 136 passengers and six crew members on board. Soon after the take off flight attendants informed the passengers that drinks and snacks were coming.
Almost at the same time the air traffic control officer from Kiev contacted the captain:
“Belavia-840, there came an order: you must return to the airport of departure Zhulyany. In case of refusal fighter aircraft will be deployed.”
Pilot: “For what reason?”
Controller: “I can not say that on air. You will be told upon arrival.”
Pilot: “Who made the order?”
There is silence on air, so after a while the pilot repeats:
“This is Belavia-840, who sent the order?
Controller: “Belavia-840, it’s Ukraerocentre.” (Ukraerocenter is main operational unit of Joint Civil-Military ATM System of Ukraine – note.)
Then the Belavia’s pilot made sure the plane needs to go back to Zhulyany and said they were coming back. Further trascript reveals pilots talking about the possible reasons for a comeback order.
After a while air traffic control contacted the aircraft again.
Controller: “Belavia-840, it’s the head of flights speaking. The order about your return to Zhulyany airport came from the military. More information will be given after the landing.”
Pilot: “We got it. We’re coming back.”
The end of the transcript contains talks between the pilots and them passing the information about the return to the flight attendants.
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.
The aircraft landed back at Kiev at 15:55. Upon landing SBU officers removed Armen Martirosyan, an Armenian citizen living in Ukraine, from the plane and searched him. After refuelling, the flight left for Minsk.
Belavia said it would reclaim costs from Ukrainian state air traffic control. The Belarusian MFA demanded apology for Ukraine and handed a note to the Charge d’Affaires of Ukraine in Belarus Valery Dzhigun on October 22.
Representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine denied allegations about the threat of deploying fighter aircraft. On Monday, October 24, SBU spokesperson Elena Gitlyanskaya said that SBU officers were not present during the talk between air traffi control and the captain, but she believes the threat was “unlikely”.
When the Belarusian side said it would make the talks public, the tone of the comments from Ukraine changed.