Sochi (AP) – Under pressure from EU sanctions and the growing confrontation with the West, Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko is traveling to a meeting with Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin.
In Sochi on the Black Sea, questions about the further bilateral development of both countries should be at stake, the Kremlin said. It is the third meeting of the two politicians this year.
Belarus already has financial debts with Russia
Lukashenko, as he said, wants to talk to Putin about the consequences of the EU and US sanctions causing economic problems for Belarus. Minsk is already indebted to Moscow by billions. Despite the rising costs to Russia, Putin had recently repeatedly emphasized that he would continue to support Lukashenko. Belarus is economically dependent on the Russian drip. Lukashenko is also politically dependent on Moscow.
The clash between Belarus and the West recently came to a head when Lukashenko grounded a Ryanair passenger plane on Sunday to arrest one of his opponents. Opposition activist and blogger Roman Protassevich was arrested after the emergency landing. His girlfriend Sofia Sapega, who is a Russian citizen, was arrested along with him.
International pressure is increasing
Four days after his arrest, Protassevich was allowed to see his lawyer Inessa Olenskaya. “Everything is fine, he is in a good mood, positive and happy,” Olenskaya told the independent Belapan news agency. She couldn’t say anything more for reasons of secrecy.
SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz expressed the expectation that Putin would campaign for the release of Roman Protassewitsch. “My expectation of the Kremlin before meeting Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is clear: Moscow must not ignore this monstrous act of air piracy,” Scholz told the Funke media group newspapers. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West against “demonizing” Belarus.
On the eve of the talks, Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko asked for help from Russia for his land of Lukashenko and Putin. “In such a situation, we count on the support of a close ally,” Golovchenko said during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Mishustin. In turn, Mischustin promised to expand air traffic between the two countries again – provided the Corona situation allows.
The EU had decided not to authorize the take-off and landing of airlines from Belarus or to allow overflights in the future. Several European countries had already issued bans since the beginning of the week. In return, Belarusian state airline Belavia has suspended all flights to Germany and six other EU countries.
European parliamentarians call for even tougher action
This week, the foreign ministers discussed the concrete implementation of the sanctions. It will be decided in the coming weeks which companies or industries will be affected. Meanwhile, a group of more than 30 MEPs called on the German Siemens group to suspend the supply of power plant equipment to Belarus and stop working with the authoritarian regime.
This endangers the safety and lives of European citizens, according to a letter to CEO Roland Busch, who is available to the German news agency. “When it comes to showing Belarusian dictator Lukashenko his borders, important European companies should not behave as if they have not touched them,” said Green MP Reinhard Bütikofer as one of the signatories. In addition to him, members of the Social Democrats, Liberals and the European People’s Party (EPP) also signed the letter.
They are concerned that Siemens is supporting the regime through its close cooperation in Belarus. Siemens last announced in March 2020 that it had received another order from Belarus for the supply of industrial gas turbines.