In his first public appearance since the ‘hijacking’ of a Ryanair plane, Lukashenko claims Belarus is under siege.
In his first public appearance since the rerouting of a flight in order to arrest a dissident journalist, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko struck a belligerent tone.
Lukashenko defended the decision to scramble a MiG-29 to force a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in the Belarusian capital on Sunday in a speech to the country’s parliament in Minsk.
Before the jet could resume its flight, Roman Protasevich, a blogger who co-founded the Nexta Telegram channels giving voice to the opposition, was detained.
The Belarusian Transport Ministry has released a transcript of contacts between Minsk air traffic control and the Ryanair flight, in which the crew was told to land because there was a bomb on board, an explanation that Western politicians ignored.
“Whether there was a bomb or not, if I was notified that there was a terrorist aboard the plane, I would instantly give the order to land the plane,” Lukashenko told MPs on Wednesday.
According to the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, he said, “There was a terrorist aboard the plane, and they knew about it far beyond the borders of Belarus” (BelTA).
Protasevich confessed to “planning huge disturbances” in a video published on Monday, which his supporters claim was made under duress.
Sviatlana Tikhanouskaya, the country’s exiled opposition leader, told a press conference on Monday that she was concerned for his safety, stating that “there is a great likelihood that he is being tortured by the secret service officers right now.”
Natalia Protasevich, Protasevich’s mother, expressed similar concerns to Agence France-Presse, saying, “I am begging for help.” Please come to his aid. In there, they’re going to kill him.”
Lukashenko also targeted domestic and international players who he believes are attempting to destabilize Belarus, referencing the violence that erupted following the disputed election in 2020.
“As we predicted, our nefarious outsiders and domestic enemies have shifted their tactics in attacking the state,” Lukashenko remarked.
“They’ve broken numerous red lines, as well as common sense and human morality. This is no longer an information war, this is a hybrid modern war. Everything must be done so it doesn’t turn into a hot one,” he added.
“Throughout 2020, unprecedented pressure was exerted on Belarus.. This is a brief summary.