Berlin / Minsk (dpa) – In the case of the emergency landing of the Ryanair passenger plane in Belarus, Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, does not consider Russia to be involved.
“In any case, it can be assumed that the state hijacking of the plane was approved by the Kremlin, if there was not even operational support from Russia.” Without the extensive support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko would be out of power for a long time, according to the CDU politician from the Rheinische Post and Bonn General-Anzeiger.
The Kremlin had rejected alleged Russian involvement in Sunday’s operation. Lukashenko is accused of landing the plane with a MiG-29 jet to arrest one of his opponents, political activist and blogger Roman Protassewitsch. The 26-year-old is, among other things, detained for organizing mass unrest in Minsk. He has been in prison for many years.
His girlfriend Sofia Sapega was arrested along with Protassevich. The 23-year-old Russian said in a video circulated by Belarusian state media that she had also worked as an editor for an opposition Telegram channel, including data on Belarusian security forces. The opposition has accused Lukashenko, who has been criticized as the “last dictator in Europe”, of vengeful and brutal actions against his opponents. The 66-year-old has ruled the country with a heavy hand for more than a quarter of a century.
Lukashenko had announced a public appearance today in which he could comment on the internationally condemned plane landing. Belarus rejects allegations that it “hijacked” the machine on its way from Athens to the Lithuanian city of Vilnius. It was previously responded to a bomb threat that turned out to be a false alarm on the ground. The EU has issued new sanctions against Belarus as a result of the operation, including a flight ban on the country’s airlines.
Röttgen called for further EU sanctions against Belarus: “Now is the time to attack all pillars of the Lukashenko regime with tough sanctions: the military, the police, the administration, the security services and especially the state-owned companies whose regime and its corrupt profiteers live economically. A KfW loan for the Siemens power stations in Belarus must also be discontinued. “After such an escalation, no more loans can be made to Belarus from a state-owned development cooperation bank,” said Röttgen.
Even the head of the conservatives in the EU parliament, Manfred Weber (CSU), claims that Russia was partly responsible for the landing of the Ryanair plane in Minsk. “This incident shows that we have a leadership in Moscow that no longer wants to contact Europe, but is deliberately steering a conflict course,” said the CSU politician of the Augsburger Allgemeine. He assumes absolutely that the Russian government under Putin played more than a spectator role in the incident and that Lukashenko coordinated the action with Moscow. Lukashenko and Putin will meet in Sochi on the Black Sea on Friday.
SPD Foreign Policy spokesman Nils Schmid told news portal “Watson” that Protassewitsch and his partner should be released immediately. He also called for further sanctions, for example against those in the Belarusian security apparatus responsible for this operation. In addition, the EU must put even more state-owned companies on sanction lists, thus limiting Lukashenko’s economic freedom of action.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Berlin: “What Lukashenko has done is hard to beat in terms of meanness.” More than 100 passengers were killed in the arrest of a journalist. “This is a three-pronged attack: an attack on air traffic safety, freedom of the press and on the European citizens on board,” said the SPD politician. “And it is a border crossing that the international community cannot let go of. Any dictator toying with such thoughts must be made clear that a bitter price must be paid for them. ‘