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Russian President Vladimir Putin praised on Friday the “concrete results” of the rapprochement with Belarus, receiving his counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, whose country is targeted by European sanctions after the hijacking of a plane from line.
Belarusian President Alexander Loukachenko accused the West of seeking to “destabilize” Belarus, during a meeting, Friday, May 28, with his Russian ally, Vladimir Poutine. And this while Minsk is targeted by European sanctions after the hijacking of a Ryanair airliner and the arrest of an opponent who was on board.
“An attempt is underway to destabilize the situation so that it is like in August” 2020, where an unprecedented protest movement against the regime has been unleashed in the country, said Alexander Lukashenko, at the start of his meeting with the government. Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on the shores of the Black Sea.
The meeting between the two leaders initially aimed to discuss in particular the “reinforcement of the economic integration” between the two countries and the means of “reacting to the external pressures”. And this is what Vladimir Putin wanted to emphasize.
“We are building a” strengthened Union “between Russia and Belarus, declared the Russian president:” We are moving firmly in this direction (…) and this work is already bringing concrete results for our citizens ” .
>> Plane hijacked by Belarus: a puzzle for Vladimir Putin
The visit comes as Belarus is under fire from criticism and European sanctions after diverting to Minsk on Sunday an Athens-Vilnius flight chartered by Ryanair and arresting an opposition journalist traveling on the plane.
Opening of a factual investigation ”
According to Minsk, the plane was diverted because of a bomb threat and the arrest of Roman Protassevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega, was a matter of chance.
Minsk assures that the pilot of the rerouted flight was under no pressure when he was urged to land in Belarus, and that the head of state dispatched a fighter plane to the skies to accompany the Ryanair Boeing 737.
The suspicions of a staging were however reinforced by two elements.
The company Proton Technologies, which hosts the email address from which the threat was sent, revealed that “the bomb threat message was sent after the plane was hijacked.”
The dossier.center site publishes a photo presented as the said email, the time displayed is 12:57, Minsk time.
However, the transcript of conversations between flight FR4978 and Belarusian air traffic controllers, published by Minsk, nevertheless establishes that the pilot was informed of the threat at 12:30 p.m. (local time). A minute later, he was recommended to land in Minsk.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for its part announced Thursday a “factual investigation” intended to establish whether there has been “violation of international aviation law”.
For the EU, which in the process asked the airlines to bypass Belarus, the bomb threat was only a staging.
This EU decision was followed by the cancellation of several Air France flights and an Austrian Airlines route to Moscow because Russia failed to validate flight plans to avoid Belarusian airspace. .
The Kremlin assured on Friday that the motive was purely “technical”. The Russian air authority Rossaviatsia explained the delay in the validation of flight plans bypassing Belarus by “the increase in the number of requests from airlines”. Austrian Airlines has also said that it now has the necessary documentation.
For its part, Brussels presented a project to support Belarus, providing up to 3 billion euros in aid to the country, in the event of a democratic transition when Alexander Lukashenko has left power.
For the Russian Foreign Ministry, Minsk has been transparent in the case of the baffled plane. The Kremlin gave him no sign of wanting to put pressure on Minsk, stressing that it had no reason to doubt his explanations.
Calls for additional sanctions
The mother of the young journalist arrested has made a moving appeal from Warsaw. “I want you to convey our demand all over the world, to government officials, to EU countries, to EU leaders, to US leaders: I cry out, I beg you, help me release my son, “said Natalia Protassevich on Thursday.
Roman Protassevich faces a heavy prison sentence. He is accused by the Belarusian authorities of having organized “massive unrest” during the 2020 protests against the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko.
For her part, Belarusian opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa called on the European Union to be “more courageous and stronger” and to impose additional sanctions on Belarus.