Russia on Monday accused the West of hypocrisy in its outraged response to the diversion of an airliner to the Belarusian capital Minsk.
Belarusian authorities scrambled a fighter jet and flagged what turned out to be a false bomb alert to force a Ryanair plane to land on Sunday, then detained a dissident journalist who was on board. There was condemnation from European countries, the United States and NATO.
“It is shocking that the West calls the incident in Belarusian airspace ‘shocking’,” Foreign Ministry spokewoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook.
“Either (they) should be shocked by … the forced (landing) in Austria of the Bolivian president’s plane at the request of the United States … Or (they) should not be shocked by similar behaviour by others.”
In another development, France and its European partners are working on measures to halt overflights of Belarus and bar its national carrier Belavia from EU airports, the French presidency said on Monday.
“We are working on a package of measures that go beyond sanctions against individuals” and may also suspend ground transit links with the EU, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.
Meanwhile, Belarusian opposition leader in exile Svetlana Tikhanouskaya said on Monday she feared for the life of journalist Roman Protasevich, who was detained in Minsk on Sunday after a Ryanair flight he was on was diverted to the city.
She said Protasevich was a high-profile opponent of President Alexander Lukashenko. “We are really afraid not only for his freedom, but for his life,” she told Sky News.
A file photo of Police officers detaining journalist Roman Protasevich while attempting to cover a rally in Minsk, Belarus, 26 March 2017. EPA-EFE/STRINGER