The Belarusian President is the Last Man in Europe.
He fought the virus hoax, now he’s about to bring down the entire system single-handedly.
Alexander Lukashenko has made his first public remarks defending his grounding of a Ryanair flight last week, accusing the west of launching a “hybrid modern war” against Minsk and calling the backlash over the incident a “planned provocation”.
Addressing a session of parliament, Lukashenko also appeared to suggest the plane could have been shot down because it was flying over a nuclear power plant when it was diverted by the Belarusian government, which appeared to have concocted a bomb threat and scrambled a Mig-29 to ensure the plane landed.
European countries began to block flights from Minsk on Wednesday following a decision by the European Commission to enact restrictions on the Belarusian national carrier Belavia. A Belavia flight bound for Barcelona turned around at the Polish border and circled more than ten times before returning to Minsk.
“We’ll fly over neutral territories, the Mediterranean Sea,” said Lukashenko during a speech. “But we will not get on our knees and we will not justify ourselves because there’s no reason to.”
Lukashenko has appeared unrepentant over the arrest of the Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, despite the threat of sanctions from the west over what has been called “air piracy” and an “act of state terrorism”.
Lukashenko’s comments to parliament on Wednesday were his first defending the grounding of the Ryanair flight. “Whether or not there was a bomb, if I was informed there was a terrorist on board the plane, I would immediately give the order to have the plane land,” said Lukashenko.
During the speech, he said a bomb threat had come from someone in Switzerland, omitting previous claims by his transport ministry that the threat had been sent by members of Hamas (a Hamas spokesperson has denied any connection to the incident).
Now The Guardian has full trust in Hamas.
He blamed the west for launching a “hybrid modern war” against Belarus, calling his country a “test range” for launching the west’s conflict with Russia.
“They’ve moved on from preparing revolts to suffocating us,” said Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. “They are looking for new weaknesses.”
Lukashenko’s remarks in part seemed aimed at ensuring greater backing from Russia, where the government has given measured support for his decision to ground the Ryanair flight but has also shown signs that it is exasperated with the Belarusian leader. If the EU launches tougher sanctions against Belarus, the country will probably request Russian support to prop up its economy.
A summit between Putin and Lukashenko was announced in Sochi for Friday where the two presidents are expected to discuss the incident. “President Lukashenko will certainly have an opportunity to inform the head of the Russian state about all circumstances and reasons of what happened in detail,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday.
It’s pretty clear that Russia was not made aware of this decision before Lukashenko made it, but it is interesting that the media is not pretending that they did.
We’re not the only ones who think Putin could use a little bit more Lukashenko style audacity. This “wait them out” Russian strategy is obvious, but it can’t possibly work. Belarus is actually probably the strongest link, despite the fact it is getting the most pressure. A color revolution in Kazakhstan would be a cakewalk. Russia has also effectively committed to a war with Israel to defend Syria, and there is some reason to believe the Palestinian conflict is a precursor to a bolder move by Israel against Lebanon, which would undoubtedly spill over into Syria.