SOCHI, May 28. /TASS/. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday he had taken documents together with him for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin about what was really happening in Belarus.
"I have taken some documents with me and I will show them to you so that you can understand what these people are," Lukashenko said before the start of the summit meeting in Sochi.
Lukashenko recalled that last year Western countries, which had closed off all their air service over the pandemic, requested Belavia, the Belarusian state-run airline, to help them with the repatriation of their citizens as only Minsk Airport was operational at the time.
"Our company repatriated thousands and thousands of people: Swedes, Germans, Poles, Lithuanians and Americans. They were so grateful to us back at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year for repatriated and rescued people," the Belarusian leader insisted.
"And now this incident with the airliner, which Belavia has no relation to. There were no Belavia planes involved, it was a foreign airliner. The military is being reproached that we landed it. But what does Belavia have to do with that? They have gone to the extreme and had it not been you at that time… What were the Belavia personnel, who repatriated thousands of these nationals amidst the Covid pandemic, punished for? I will show you some documents and you will understand what happened there and is happening," Lukashenko said, addressing his Russian counterpart.
The Belarusian leader also added that "an attempt was underway to sway the situation to the level of August last year."
A passenger jet belonging to Ryanair, an Irish low-cost airline, performing a flight from Athens to Vilnius on May 23 made an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport after a bomb threat on board the plane had been reported. A MiG-31 fighter jet was dispatched to escort the airliner to Minsk airport.
A subsequent search after the aircraft had touched down in the Belarusian capital failed to find any explosives. The Belarusian Investigative Committee opened a criminal probe into a false bomb scare.
Minsk later specified that Roman Protasevich, wanted in Belarus as a co-founder of the Nexta Telegram channel deemed extremist, had been among the flight’s passengers. He was taken into custody by law enforcement agents, together with Sofiya Sapega, a young Russian woman traveling with him. The flight departed from Minsk in the evening of the same day and landed in Vilnius.
The European Union’s summit held after the Ryanair incident decided to ban Belarusian airlines from carrying out flights to European airports and through the EU’s airspace. It also recommended that European air carriers avoid flying over Belarusian territory. Some countries have already closed their airspace to Belavia, in particular, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Latvia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Finland, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia.