Western Countries Putting Pressure on Minsk over Forced Plane Landing

Western Countries Putting Pressure on Minsk over Forced Plane Landing

Photo: http://epa.com

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations that Moscow had helped to force-land the Ryanair flight in Belarus "inadequate." He said so in response to the remarks by Dominic Raab, First Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary of the UK. That latter claimed that the incident could have occurred with Moscow’s tacit consent.

On May 23, a Ryanair airliner on a flight from Athens to Vilnius landed at Minsk airport due to a bomb threat onboard. No explosive was found on the flight, but the authorities identified one of the passengers as Roman Protasevich, a founder of the NEXTA Telegram channel which was recognized as extremist in Belarus. Protasevich was detained during ID checks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for “unhurried and unimpulsive” assessment of the situation" using all available information, "as a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus has made a detailed statement.”

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry promised that the republic’s authorities would act transparently in this case, follow all international standards, guarantee full transparency, and invite international experts if necessary.

However, the European Union had already responded to the actions of Minsk, calling upon airlines to boycott the airspace of Belarus and threatening new sectoral and personal sanctions. Many European airlines have announced that they would not enter the Belarussian airspace, while international airports began to refuse to receive Belavia flights.

"Well, it is right that the EU has denied entry to Belarussian planes," Prof. Nikita Krichevsky, Doctor of Economic Sciences and chief researcher of the Institute of Economics, told wek.ru. "They have nothing to do there. Undoubtedly, there will be some economic consequences for Belarus. As for Russia, I don’t think it will face problems anytime soon. Our country will once again express its deepest concerns. However, I believe that the Western countries will not aggravate the relationship with Russia, all the more so because we are not directly involved. No one wants the Western countries to finally push Belarus into our arms.”

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary also commented on the incident. He said that it was "a case of state hijacking and piracy." According to him, he cannot make more detailed statements because the incident is currently being investigated by EU authorities and NATO representatives.

"Of course, what happened in the sky of Belarus is terrible,” Krichevsky said. “Anyway I think that everybody had long known what could be expected from Lukashenko. It is not about Protasevich. It is about an act of air terrorism. Clearly the fighters were not escorting but forcing the Boeing to turn to Minsk. If you're a few dozen kilometers from Vilnius, it would have been faster if it had flown on and landed there, but the pilot turned around for some reason. Why? Because he was forced.”

Recently, a Chinese Foreign Ministry representative commented on the situation with the Boeing emergency landing in Minsk.

"We have paid attention to the relevant reports," said the diplomat, "and by now, the circumstances of the incident are still unclear. The Chinese Foreign Ministry believes that before the facts and the true picture of what happened are established, all sides should exercise restraint and avoid escalation.”

"China's role in this whole story was clearly underestimated," Krichevsky said. “In recent years, China has been one of the active key partners of Minsk. So, the downfall of relations with Belarus initiated by the West will mean the downfall of relations with China. Obviously, this will not be approved by Beijing. Well, measures to restrict flights, additional sanctions against officials, funding freeze, etc. are reasonable and correct. Chances are there will even be some restrictions on investing in Belarusian government bonds, as well as a ban on certain Belarussian exports. To my thinking, these options are open, but other countries may not necessarily go for them.”

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