Belarus President Lukashenko claims that a journalist who was dragged from a plane was planning a “bloody rebellion.”
In the face of international condemnation for intercepting a passenger plane and detaining journalist and government critic Roman Protasevich, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko claimed that Protasevich was planning a “bloody rebellion.”
Lukashenko denounced recent EU sanctions against Belarus in his first public remarks since a military jet diverted a Ryanair flight on Sunday, accusing the West of waging a “hybrid war” against him. He also defended the forced landing, claiming that a bomb threat was present.
“Our ill-wishers from outside and inside the country changed their methods of attack on the state, just as we predicted,” Lukashenko told Parliament on Wednesday. “That’s why they went from rioting to attempting to strangle us.”
“I acted lawfully, protecting people in accordance with international rules,” he added.
According to Reuters, Lukashenko gave no details about the violence he accused Protasevich of planning, but he claimed the 26-year-old journalist and his associates were planning a “massacre and a bloody rebellion in Belarus” with the help of foreign intelligence agencies.
Protasevich, a prominent opposition figure living in exile, is one of the co-founders of the NEXTA Telegram channel, which is one of Belarus’s last remaining independent news sources.
The channel has also gained a reputation for organizing anti-Lukashenko protests, particularly after the president, who has ruled the country for more than a quarter-century, was reelected to a sixth term in August. The opposition has denounced the result, claiming it was rigged.
Since the protests began, more than 35,000 people have been arrested in Belarus as a result of Lukashenko’s victory.
Following what the CEO of Ryanair described as a “state-sponsored hijacking,” world leaders were united in taking action against Lukashenko. Belarusian airlines have been barred from the European Union’s 27-nation bloc, while their own airlines have been told not to fly over the country’s airspace and further economic sanctions have been threatened.
Lukashenko responded by warning that the country would retaliate by weakening border controls. “We were stopping migrants and drugsâ€”now you will catch them and eat them yourself,” he said Wednesday.
On Monday, a video of Protasevich shown on state television has him claiming to be in good health and confessing to committing “civil. This is a brief summary.