Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his visiting Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko met in Sochi where the leaders discussed the aftermath of the Ryanair flight diversion incident, the Kremlin said in a statement.
During the meeting on Friday, which was the third between the two leaders this year, Putin agreed with Lukashenko’s opinion that the reaction to the Ryanair landing demonstrated an “emotional outburst”, and added there were many other common fields of interest both leaders could discuss, Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying.
Putin recalled an incident that took place in 2013, when the airplane of the Bolivian President was forced to land at a different location, pointing out the reaction back then was rather quiet.
Lukashenko in turn told the Russian leader he would show him documents related to the recent emergency landing of the Ryanair flight.
“There has been an attempt to stir up the situation so it would end up being similar to that of August last year… It is simply clear what these Western friends want from us,” he said, speaking of mass election protests in Belarus in 2020.
On Sunday, Belarus forced the Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius to make an emergency landing in Minsk, saying there was a bomb threat aboard, which turned out to be an unfounded claim, and sending a fighter jet to accompany the aircraft.
Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old dissident journalist, and his partner were taken into custody after the landing, prompting a raft of measures by the EU, including restricted access to the bloc’s airspace for Belarusian carriers.
On Wednesday, the long-time Belarusian leader defended the decision to force land the aircraft, saying that “I acted lawfully by protecting people, according to all international rules”.
Protasevich is a “terrorist”, Lukashenko said, adding that the blogger was planning a “bloody uprising” in Belarus.