Putin plays down crisis at talks with Lukashenko

Putin plays down crisis at talks with Lukashenko
Alexander Lukashenko (left) met his main ally - Vladimir Putin - in Sochi. Source: Reuters
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Daily US Times: Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Western outrage over the diversion of a passenger plane to the Belarus capital Minsk from where a dissident and his girlfriend were seized. During talks in the Russian resort city of Sochi, Mr Putin and Belarusian president Lukashenko spoke of “an outpouring of emotion”.

The European Union has since urged Europe-based airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

They have demanded the release of Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

The pair had been flying from Athens to Vilnius, two EU capitals, last Sunday, when a Mig 29 was scrambled over Belarus to escort their plane to land at Minsk airport over a bomb threat which turned out to be fake.

The UN’s civil aviation agency has said it will launch a “fact-finding” investigation into Belarus’s actions about the plane, asking whether there was any breach of international aviation law.

After the EU called on airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace, Russia refused access for several Moscow-bound Austrian Airlines and Air France flights.

In another development, the EU revealed a draft plan to fund a future “democratic transition” in Belarus with up to $3.7bn.

Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, stressed that the current Belarusian president was unlikely to benefit, telling reporters in Lisbon: “It means something that I don’t think Lukashenko… will be supporting.”

Russia is the strongest political ally of Lukashenko, even though personal relations between the two long-time presidents are at times said to be strained.

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