Senior Belarusian Officials Conspired to Use a False Bomb Threat to Unlawfully Divert a Passenger Flight Carrying American Citizens in Order to Arrest Belarusian Dissident
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) New York Office, and Commissioner Keechant Sewell of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the filing of a one-count indictment charging LEONID MIKALAEVICH CHURO, the Director General of Belaeronavigatsia Republican Unitary Air Navigation Services Enterprise (“Belaeronavigatsia”), the Belarusian state air navigation authority; OLEG KAZYUCHITS, the Deputy Director General of Belaeronavigatsia; and two officers of the Belarusian state security services, ANDREY ANATOLIEVICH LNU and FNU LNU, with conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy for engineering the diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978 (the “Flight”)—which was carrying four U.S. nationals and more than 100 other passengers on board—while it was in flight over Belarus on May 23, 2021, for the purpose of arresting a dissident Belarusian journalist who was on board the Flight. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer. The defendants are based in Belarus and remain at large.