Russian officials have defended Belarus’ use of a military jet to divert a passenger plane carrying a dissident, an act Western leaders have called “state terrorism” and that may spark tougher sanctions against Minsk.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists that Belarus had treated the incident with an “absolutely reasonable approach.”
“A representative of the Belarusian foreign ministry… stressed the readiness of the Belarusian authorities to act on the issue in a transparent manner and to follow all international rules,” Lavrov said during a press conference following a meeting with his Greek counterpart.
“I think this is an absolutely reasonable approach.”
He called on the global community to “soberly assess the situation”.
The remarks came after Belarus state media claimed that its authorities had no other choice but pull Ryanair flight FR4978 from its Athens-to-Vilnius route and arrest opposition journalist Roman Protasevich. Belarus authorities said the plane had to make an emergency landing in Minsk following a bomb scare.
State Duma deputy Leonid Kalashnikov, who chairs the Duma’s committee on post-Soviet affairs, said earlier Monday that Belarus has the right to choose “those methods that it considers feasible and necessary” to combat threats to its national security.
“It’s an independent state. If they see a threat to their security, then they must fight this threat,” Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted Kalashnikov as saying.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed “shock” at what she called Western hypocrisy over its muted reactions to past plane diversions.
“The internet remembers all cases of violent abductions, forced landings and illegal arrests made by ‘peace officers and guardians of morality’,” Zakharova wrote on Facebook, referring to Western democracies.