The meeting is usual and planned for a long time. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is to be welcomed by his ally Vladimir Putin on Friday May 28 at his summer residence in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, in southern Russia.
Officially, the agenda does not seem to have been upset by the case of the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius diverted by a Belarusian air force plane in order to arrest the opposition journalist Roman Protassevich and his Russian companion . MM. Lukashenko and Putin mainly plan to talk about integration “Between the two former Soviet republics, a project that Moscow has long cherished, and their common projects, in particular economic”, according to the Kremlin website.
Show Russian support for Minsk
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already set the tone on Thursday by insisting that the West must “Stop demonizing those he doesn’t like”. And the Kremlin stands by its position expressed on Wednesday by its spokesman, Dmitry Peskov: there is no reason to doubt the explanations of Minsk, who claims to have diverted the Ryanair plane on Sunday solely because of a bomb threat, without knowing that opposition journalist Roman Protassevich was on board.
Email company Proton Technologies has since announced that the bomb threat, which Belarus cites as justification for the hijacking of the plane, was sent by its courier after the Ryanair flight was hijacked by a plane. of hunting.
But Vladimir Putin may not be indifferent to threats from Brussels of sanctions against Minsk that could affect the transit of Russian gas through Belarus. Minsk, very economically dependent on its ” big Brother “ Russian Federation, in fact derives an important source of income from this transit position between Russia and the European Union.
But, for the time being, with the support of Moscow, Alexander Lukashenko is showing no sign of wanting to give in to increasing pressure. The latest comes from an investigation announced Thursday by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) into the legality of the hijacking, after an emergency meeting.
Roman Protassevich’s mother appealed Thursday from Warsaw to the international community, asking for help to free her son, imprisoned in Belarus after the hijacking of his Athens-Vilnius flight, and for a heavy sentence of jail. He is accused by the Belarusian authorities of having organized “Massive unrest” during the 2020 protests against Mr Lukashenko’s re-election.
European showdown with Moscow
In the last few days, three flights from European Union (EU) capitals to Moscow – one Paris-Moscow from Air France on Friday, another on Wednesday and one Vienna-Moscow from Austrian Airlines on Thursday – were canceled for lack of authorization for new journeys avoiding Belarus. “The air authorities will give the necessary clarifications, but these are technical questions”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday, adding that it was above all about“Ensure aviation safety”.
The closure of “Route of hundreds of flights (…) creates colossal problems for citizens ”, said Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for Russian diplomacy, on Facebook earlier today. “It is time for Brussels to learn how to take measures which are genuinely made for the safety of citizens”, she added.
For its part, the European Union is trying to find out whether the obstacles put by Russia to air links are occasional or whether it is a political decision. “We (…) still not sure if this is a case by case (…) or a general directive from the Russian authorities to force European planes to fly over Belarus ”EU foreign minister Josep Borrell said on Friday as he arrived for a meeting with EU defense ministers in Lisbon.