Belarusian minister behind plane diversion to arrest opposition journalist mysteriously dies aged 47

5 July 2023, 13:52 | Updated: 5 July 2023, 14:03

Aleksey Avramenko
Aleksey Avramenko. Picture: Twitter

By Emma Soteriou

A Belarusian minister who was responsible for illegally diverting a plane to arrest an opposition journalist has mysteriously died at the age of 47.

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Aleksey Avramenko, who was minister of Transport and Communications, died suddenly on July 4 due to unexplained causes, according to state news agency Belta.

Avramenko was behind the diversion of passenger flight FR4978 to Minsk airport on May 23, 2021 as it travelled from Greece to Lithuania.

The aircraft, which was flying from Athens to Vilnius, was forced to land in the capital of Belarus, following a false bomb threat.

Opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, who was on the flight with his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, was later arrested by authorities.

Read more: Female Russian journalist attacked by armed thugs, who cover her in green dye, shave her head and break her fingers

Read more: Sudden fatalities and falling from windows: The high-profile suspicious Russian deaths since the invasion of Ukraine

Vladimir Makei
Vladimir Makei. Picture: Alamy

Avramenko was deputy minister for transportation in 2013, and then first deputy minister in 2019.

He was directly reporting to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko when the Ryanair flight was diverted in 2021.

The move was widely criticised by political leaders from around the world, with the opposition in Belarus saying the incident was orchestrated by the government in order to arrest the blogger.

It marks the second unexplained death of Lukashenko's officials in a year after foreign minister Vladimir Makei died in November.

Makei had been one of the initiators of efforts to improve relations with the West and had been critical of Russia.

However, he abruptly changed his stance after the start of anti-government protests, saying they were inspired by agents of the West.

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