UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Lukashenko: Belarus responded lawfully to protect people after bomb scare from Switzerland

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 26 May 2021 11:58 AM

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that his government responded adequately and lawfully to protect his people in diverting a Ryanair flight to Minsk, pursuant to receiving a bomb threat against the passenger airliner from Switzerland.

"The message that there was a bomb on board that plane came from Switzerland," Lukashenko was quoted as saying, according to TASS.

"How should we have acted, especially amid a cascade of bomb threats targeting our facilities? You live in Belarus and know that either schools or universities or enterprises receive bomb threats every day. Even airliners receive such messages from IP-addresses in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia," the state-run BelTA news agency quoted the Belarusian president as saying during his speech at a parliamentary session on Wednesday.

On May 23, a Ryanair passenger plane heading from Athens to Vilnius had to make an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport, following a reported bomb scare that proved to be a false threat later.

A MiG-29 fighter was scrambled to escort the airliner, giving rise to initial reports that the airliner had been forced to land in Minsk.

Belarus released a transcript of communications between Minsk air traffic control and the Ryanair flight, in which the crew is told "you have a bomb on board" and urged to land in Minsk.

Lukashenko on Wednesday dismissed the reports of forced landing as an "absolute lie."

"I acted lawfully to protect our people," the president said, adding his opponents were seeking to undermine his rule.

"Our ill-wishers at home and abroad have changed their methods of attacking the state. They have crossed many red lines and crossed boundaries of common sense and human morality," he said.

"My message to the entire international community is this: there is no need to try to shatter Belarus," Lukashenko said.

The Kremlin, threw its weight behind Belarus on Wednesday, saying it had no reason to doubt Lukashenko's statements on the Ryanair incident.

"The Kremlin sees no reason not to trust statements from the leadership of Belarus," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Belarusian law enforcement forces detained dissident figure Roman Protasevich, who was among the plane's passengers along with a female companion identified as Sofia Sapega, after it was diverted to the Minsk airport.

Protasevich is the co-founder of a Telegram channel that is viewed as extremist by the Belarus government.

Belarus' state TV said on Monday that Protasevich had confessed to organizing "riots."

"I am treated quite well," he was heard as saying in a video. "I continue to cooperate with the investigation and I am giving a confession concerning the organization of mass riots in Minsk."

Sapega, his female companion who is also under detention, appeared in another video on Tuesday, saying she worked for a Telegram channel that disclosed information about Belarusian police.

The UN Security Council is to meet behind closed doors over Belarus later on Wednesday.

Western countries accuse Belarus of hijacking the plane. The detentions have sparked furious criticism from many European countries, with the EU suspending its air links with Belarus.

The European Union called on all EU-based airlines to stop flying over Belarus and began the process of banning Belarusian airlines from flying over the bloc's airspace or landing in its airports.

EU leaders have been calling for Protasevich's "immediate release."

Brussels has also pledged to impose new economic sanctions against Lukashenko's government.

This is not the first time the EU has moved against Belarus. Long before the plane incident, the bloc had imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and some of his associates, in the wake of the unrest that gripped the country after last year's election.

President Lukashenko won re-election in the August 9 vote, but the opposition rejected the official results and alleged voter fraud. The US and the EU likewise rejected Lukashenko's re-election.

Minsk dismissed the allegations of vote rigging, and Lukashenko said Western governments were seeking to destabilize the ex-Soviet state.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list