Lukashenko hits back at condemnation of journalist’s arrest

Lukashenko hits back at condemnation of journalist's arrest
Alexander Lukashenko accused his critics of "crossing red lines" by imposing sanctions on Belarus. Source: EPA
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Daily US Times: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his critics are “strangling” his country and waging “hybrid warfare”.

Mr Lukashenko told parliament common sense had been abandoned and “many red lines” crossed as Western countries imposed sanctions on Belarus.

He was defending the move to forcibly divert a Ryanair passenger plane, which was flying from Greece to Lithuania, to land in Belarus capital Minsk on Sunday.

Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich who is a critic of Mr Lukashenko was arrested from the plane.

The 26-year-old journalist was placed on a terrorism list last year and says he fears the death penalty. Belarus is the only country in Europe and the former Soviet Union that still passes and carries out death sentences.

Sofia Sapega, His Russian girlfriend, was also detained and they both now face criminal charges.

Videos of them have been released, appearing to show them confessing to crimes, though, it is highly likely they are both speaking under duress.

The Belarusian president’s comments were the first he has made in public about the incident, which has drawn Western outrage.

European leaders have accused Belarus of hijacking the plane, but Mr Lukashenko has insisted he acted lawfully when he ordered its diversion.

Authorities in Belarus claim the flight had been diverted because of a bomb threat from Palestinian militant group Hamas, but the group denied any involvement. Mr Lukashenko also said the threat had originated in Switzerland, but the authorities in that country said they knew nothing of it.

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