Russia vows to defend Belarus if EU sanctions Minsk

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Russia will defend Belarus and help it if the European Union imposes economic sanctions on Minsk over the grounding of a plane and arrest of a dissident blogger, the RIA news agency cited a Russian foreign ministry official as saying.

Many European nations have imposed flight bans on Belarusian aviation over the forced landing of a Ryanair flight on May 23. The EU is weighing further sanctions.

In another development, Belarus’s leading opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on Monday that detained blogger Roman Protasevich had been beaten and tortured in jail.

A lawyer who visited Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega said he was fine, “but it’s doubtful, because for sure he was tortured, for sure he was beaten”, she told reporters at a news conference in Tallinn.

Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were detained on May 23 after their plane was forced to land in Minsk. Tsikhanouskaya offered no evidence for her assertion, though Protasevich’s family has also said a video of him from detention showed signs of torture.

Belarus denies abusing detainees.

Photo: A file photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shaking hands with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (R) during their meeting in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia, 22 February 2021. EPA-EFE/ALEXEI DRUZHININ / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN