Belarus President Defends Plane Diversion, Defying Pressure From West

MOSCOW—Belarus President

Alexander Lukashenko

accused the West of launching a hybrid war towards his place and unfairly demonizing him for diverting a Ryanair flight in excess of the weekend, a shift he insisted was legal and justified.

The Belarusian leader said his place experienced averted a tragedy and saved life by heeding studies that there had been explosives on board the plane and he charged that Western leaders experienced crossed purple lines in their assaults on the previous Soviet point out.

“We responded adequately to the information been given,” Mr. Lukashenko said in a speech to parliamentarians on Wednesday, his initial responses because the Sunday incident, with some of his remarks contradicting information Belarusian authorities introduced before in the week. “How would the United States react in this sort of a situation in look at of their unhappy experience?”

European Union and U.S. leaders had been swift to condemn the pressured landing of the plane, which was carrying dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was later arrested. On Monday, they agreed to impose a new round of sanctions on Belarus and ban its airways from entering the bloc’s airspace and airports.

Belarus authorities arrested opposition activist Roman Protasevich on board a Ryanair plane, which experienced been traveling from Greece to Lithuania, after diverting the aircraft to Minsk. Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary identified as the incident “a case of point out-sponsored hijacking,” further more elevating the world wide aviation industry’s alarm in excess of the diversion. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Western leaders have demanded the release of Mr. Protasevich, who grew to become just one of the direct actors guiding a wave of antigovernment protests final yr in the wake of Belarus’s August presidential election. Mr. Lukashenko claimed to have received in a landslide, but Western officials said the vote was neither absolutely free nor honest. Opponents have been demanding the resignation of the Belarusian leader, who has been in power because 1994.

“As we predicted, our ill-wishers from exterior and inside the place have altered the approaches of attacking the point out,” Mr. Lukashenko said. “They crossed the boundaries of common perception and human morality.”

He additional, “No quicker experienced the plane landed in Minsk, carbon-duplicate accusations from the West and flight bans commenced pouring in.”

Belarusian authorities in November set Mr. Protasevich on a listing of persons involved in terrorist routines. They also commenced several criminal circumstances towards him for arranging illegal protests and disrupting social get. Mr. Protasevich has said he regards the allegations as political repression. But the day after he was detained in Minsk, a video circulated on numerous Belarusian social-media accounts, together with the opposition’s, showed him declaring he was in a pretrial detention facility in the Belarusian money and confessing to arranging mass riots.

His supporters and parents said they imagine his responses had been coerced.

The plane’s grounding has elevated questions in excess of legality. U.K. Foreign Secretary

Dominic Raab

condemned the shift as “a surprising assault on civil aviation and an assault on intercontinental regulation,” which “represents a threat to civilian flights just about everywhere.”

Mr. Lukashenko said, “The point out that will not succumb to hybrid force can survive. I enchantment to the full entire world community: There is no position in shaking Belarus.”

Belarusian opposition leader

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya,

who life in exile in Lithuania, said Wednesday that a new phase of active antigovernment protests had been becoming ready.

“There is nothing more to wait around for—terror must be stopped after and for all,” she said.

Mr. Lukashenko’s responses about the flight diversion came a day after Belarusian aviation authorities introduced a transcript indicating that the

Ryanair Holdings

PLC pilot frequently questioned air-site visitors controllers about their ask for to reroute the plane to Minsk. The back again-and-forth between the cockpit and ground regulate instructed the pilots sought clarity on diverting to Minsk, because the plane was already nearing the Lithuanian money of Vilnius, its closing place.

Mr. Lukashenko said that the


crew consulted with the homeowners of the plane and the airport in Vilnius, but resolved to land in Minsk.

A spokeswoman for Lithuania’s air-site visitors regulate agency, Oro Navigacija, said on Tuesday that the crew did not call the agency. It is unclear from the transcript that Belarus introduced regardless of whether the crew was ready to connect with Ryanair.

The Eire-primarily based airline declined to comment on Mr. Lukashenko’s remarks.

The Irish authorities will elevate the problem with the United Nations Safety Council later Wednesday, an Irish official said. Irish Prime Minister

Micheál Martin

before this week identified as the pressured landing of the aircraft a “hijacking.”

The Belarusian leader said that a jet fighter dispatched by the Belarus air power was not meant to intimidate the crew.

“Forcing the liner to land by a MiG-29 fighter is an absolute lie,” Mr. Lukashenko said. “The endeavor of the fighter is to present conversation and take out a passenger plane for landing in case of a crucial situation.”

Mr. Lukashenko also said that the purported warning about a bomb on the plane, which was traveling from Athens, came from Switzerland.

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Foreign Affairs said that Swiss authorities experienced no expertise of a bomb threat on the flight and have not been in touch with Belarus on the issue.

Belarus experienced before said it experienced been given correspondence from Hamas, the militant team that governs the Gaza Strip, that a bomb on board was established to detonate in excess of Vilnius. Hamas hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

“Hamas or no Hamas—it doesn’t issue right now,” Mr. Lukashenko said. “I acted legally, shielding persons, in accordance with all intercontinental policies.”

Produce to Georgi Kantchev at g[email protected] and Ann M. Simmons at [email protected]

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