Putin Meets with Belarus President Lukashenko in Sochi, amid ‘Outburst of Emotions’
May 28, 2021 (EIRNS)—Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi for talks today. Their meeting comes amidst a flap by the EU, Britain and the United States over the arrest by Belarus police of Western intelligence operative Raman Pratasevic, taken off a Ryanair plane en route from Athens to Vilnius, forced to land May 23 in Minsk. Putin provided Lukashenko with a friendly greeting, and alluded to the lack of Western protests when the U.S. forced the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales to land in Vienna in 2013, in a frantic attempt to seize Edward Snowden (who was not aboard): “The plane of the Bolivian President was forced to land once. The President was led out of the plane and nothing, silence.” In contrast, this is “an outburst of emotion.”
Lukashenko brought some confidential documents on the Ryanair incident which he thought would be helpful. Putin said of their pre-arranged summit: “But we have topics to discuss without these developments.” According to the Kremlin transcript, they then went on to speak about trade relations which Putin said are developing despite the coronavirus pandemic.
In reaction to the May 23 incident, European civil authorities have banned their airlines from flying through Belarusian airspace, and in response, Moscow appears to be making it difficult for those same airlines to use Russian airspace as an alternative. The flight plans by Air France and an Austrian carrier were rejected by Russian aviation authorities, and they could not fly to Moscow.
Before the start of the Sochi meeting with Putin, Lukashenko said, “I have taken some documents with me and I will show them to you so that you can understand what these people are.” Lukashenko reported that the Europeans have blocked the Belarusian state airline Belavia from flying to Europe even though Belavia had nothing to do with the incident and had helped repatriate European citizens stranded by the pandemic lockdowns in 2020. “I will show you some documents and you will understand what happened there and is happening,” Lukashenko said.