Russia has agreed to release $ 500 million in credit to Belarus and seeks to increase the number of flights between the two countries that the Kremlin has doubled its support for. Alexander Lukashenko after his forced disembarkation from a passenger flight that sparked Western condemnation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Lukashenko to Sochi on Saturday, discussing his invitation for a yacht trip on the Black Sea a day after the two men had been arguing for more than five hours.
The two-day summit highlighted Moscow’s position as the closest and most reliable foreign ally of the struggling autocrat, and it took place when the United States joined the EU in impose sanctions against Minsk.
Russia’s support for Lukashenko was in stark contrast to the condemnation of the United States and the EU and could complicate preparations for a summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden in Geneva next month, which is was billed as an effort to normalize relations between Moscow and the West.
Belarusian authorities used a bomb threat and a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight traveling between Greece and Lithuania to return to Minsk on May 23, where police then detained Roman Protasevich, a first-rate dissident journalist, who was on board.
That blatant move, described by Ryanair as “state-sponsored piracy,” provoked condemnation from Western countries.
The EU he forbade The Belarusian airline is flying from its airports and is committed to imposing additional sanctions against the country, while Biden on Friday resumed “complete blockade sanctions” against nine Belarusian state-owned airlines.
The Kremlin has criticized the West’s response and announced that a $ 500 million overdue loan to Minsk will be released by the end of June.
The money represents the second tranche of a $ 1 billion financial package Moscow agreed in December to bolster Lukashenko’s finances, which have been plagued by the repercussions of mass protests against his fraudulent election victory. last year, and the impact of Covid-19.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia and Belarus’ transport ministers were working together to “organize air transport” that would allow Belarusians to travel to Russia for the summer holidays and return home from Russia. European countries via Russia, offsetting the impact of the EU flight ban. .
“President Lukashenko has informed [Putin] in detail about what happened to the Ryanair plane, “Peskov told reporters, adding that the discussions were” very constructive, rich in content. “
The Kremlin has dismissed it as such “Russophobia” Westerners claim that Moscow assisted Minsk in the operation to arrest Protasevich or that he had early warning.
The dissident founded a media channel that reported and helped coordinate protests against Lukashenko.
This week Russia forced at least two European airlines to cancel flights to Moscow after failing to approve new flight plans involving a flight back to Belarus.