Putin offers Belarus leader support against West in Ryanair plane standoff By Reuters

© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin meets together with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, Russia May 28, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin by way of REUTERS


By Tom Balmforth and Maria Tsvetkova

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday provided his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko support in his standoff with the West over his dealing with of the grounding of a passenger jet and the arrest of a dissident blogger.

The West has accused Belarus of piracy after Belarusian air site visitors management on Sunday knowledgeable the Ryanair pilot of a hoax bomb menace and Minsk scrambled a MiG-29 fighter plane to escort the jetliner down, after which arrested Roman Protasevich, a blogger and critic of Lukashenko, alongside together with his girlfriend.

Both are actually languishing in jail. Accused of orchestrating mass riots, Protasevich may very well be jailed for as much as 15 years.

But Putin, a detailed ally of Lukashenko, gave his support to Lukashenko, warmly welcoming him for talks in the southern Russian metropolis of Sochi and agreeing with Lukashenko that the West’s response to the incident was “an outburst of emotion”.

“At one time they forced the Bolivian president’s plane to land and took him out of the plane and nothing, silence,” mentioned Putin, referring to a 2013 incident in which Evo Morales’ plane was compelled to land in Austria at a time when the United States was attempting to intercept whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The talks in the Black Sea metropolis of Sochi have been organised earlier than the plane incident, however come after many European nations have imposed flight bans on Belarusian aviation and the EU is weighing additional sanctions.

Lukashenko informed Putin he would present him some confidential paperwork concerning the Ryanair incident that might assist the Russian leader perceive what actually occurred.

“There is always someone who causes problems for us. You know about them, I’ll inform you,” Lukashenko informed Putin.

“I brought some documents so that you understand what is happening.”

Looking relaxed and smiling, Putin had earlier advised the 2 males take a sea dip, one thing Lukashenko agreed to.

Russia, a detailed ally which sees the ex-Soviet republic of 9.5 million as a strategically vital buffer to its west, had provided verbal support to Minsk earlier than the Putin assembly, whereas dismissing hypothesis it was itself complicit in the incident.

Moscow says Belarus has proven a readiness for transparency in the row and has described the West’s response to the plane incident as “shocking,” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accusing it of “demonising” the authorities in Minsk.

Russia and Belarus, that are formally a part of a “union state”, have been in talks for years to additional combine their nations, a course of that has lengthy spurred fears amongst Belarus’s beleaguered opposition that Lukashenko would possibly commerce off chunks of sovereignty in return for political backing from the Kremlin.

Putin informed Lukashenko the 2 males have been persevering with to construct the union state, however have been doing so steadily, with out haste, and in a low key means.

In energy since 1994, Lukashenko with Russia’s assist confronted down the most important protests of his rule final summer time over election rigging, allegations that he denied. The protests misplaced momentum amid a violent crackdown, however his critics plan to stage new ones.

(modifying by Andrew Osborn)

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