Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko hold the second day of talks in Sochi while the United States imposes sanctions for the diversion scandal.
Russia has agreed to release a second $ 500 million loan to Belarus as Moscow intensifies its support for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko amid outrage in the West over the landing of a European passenger plane and the arrest of a journalist dissident.
Financial support was announced after Russian President Vladimir Putin held a second day of talks with Lukashenko and on Saturday offered his guest a yacht tour in the Black Sea town of Sochi.
The money is part of a $ 1.5 billion loan that Russia pledged to Belarus as part of Moscow’s efforts to stabilize its neighbor after the outbreak of massive protests against Lukashenko’s nearly three-decade government. last year.
Minsk received a first tranche of $ 500 million in October and will receive the second tranche before the end of June, the RIA news agency reported.
Those of Putin and Lukashenko two-day summit it came when the European Union and the United States denounced Belarus for using a fake bomb threat to force a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk. Belarusian authorities sent a fighter jet to escort the plane, before arresting journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen.
Both are in jail accused of orchestrating mass riots. Protasevich could be imprisoned for up to fifteen years.
Several European nations have imposed flight bans on Belarusian aviation, while the US said “complete blocking sanctions“Nine state-owned Belarusian companies will enter into force on June 3. Washington also said it was working with the EU to draw up a list of specific sanctions against key members of Lukashenko’s government.
Putin has criticized the West’s response, agreeing with Lukashenko on Friday that the reaction was “an outburst of emotion.”
Russia also pledged to consider increasing flights with Belarus to offset the effect of EU flight bans, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Putin and Lukashenko “discussed the organization of air traffic, taking into account the decision of the European authorities and many airlines that have canceled flights through [Belarusian] and given that Belavia is no longer welcome in European cities, “Peskov said.” The transport ministries of the two countries – Russia and Belarus – are responsible for organizing all aspects of air communication. “A large number of Belarusians have to return to their homeland in some way.”
Putin also raised the issue of Sapega, Protasevich’s partner, Peskov said.
“On the initiative of the Russian president, the issue of the Russian citizen was raised, who was arrested … Naturally, we are not indifferent to her fate,” Peskov said.
He added that the Kremlin would take note of the fact that Sapega also has a Belarusian residence permit.
“Therefore, we start from the fact that everything should be done within the law. The president has instructed the Russian Foreign Ministry to follow the case of Russian citizens with the utmost care, “Peskov added.