Russia has denied allegations that it was involved in a plot to assassinate Ryanair place in Belarus to arrest an opponent like “Russophobia”.
Belarusian authorities on Sunday used a fake bomb and a MiG-29 fighter jet to force the plane to land in Minsk, where anti-Roman journalist Roman Protasevich was detained by police, sparking riots spread all over the world and the promise of EU sanctions.
Dominic Raab, the UK’s foreign secretary, said on Monday that it was “extremely difficult to believe that this could be done without the consent of the Moscow authorities”, adding that he “did not have enough knowledge” to have a possible participation in Russia, Belarus’ neighbor
Russia and Belarus have a pro-air defense system, and their allies and security forces have a common alliance. Russia last month arrested two Belarusian men on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s most independent leader since 1994.
The Kremlin denied Raab’s allegations. “These are serious Rusophobia, they are interested in blaming Russia for everything,” Dmitry Peskov, who spoke on behalf of President Vladimir Putin, told reporters. “It is unfortunate that such cases have not taken place.”
In response to the incident, which Ryanair described as “Aircraft theft”, The UK and the EU have banned Belarusian planes from Belavia using their airports and have asked European airlines to restrict flights to Belarus.
Brussels also said it had imposed economic sanctions “against” Minsk.
Peskov said the sanctions imposed on Belarus were very urgent, as all investigations into the incident had not taken place.
“There is probably no need to explain anything, here their fears and curiosity are beginning to fade and the authors of these words have not been given the opportunity to explore the situation,” he added.
The Kremlin’s comments came on Monday when Russia’s Foreign Ministry defended Minsk’s actions, denouncing them as fraudulent, and citing other examples of Western airlines being targeted.
Russian journalists have also defended Minsk’s actions. Margarita Simonyan, head of state-owned RT television, said Lukashenko “pulled it off”.
On Tuesday in Moscow again denied reports that four Russian nationals had boarded a plane in Minsk and had not yet made their way to Vilnius.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said that only one Russian citizen, Protasevich’s friend Sofya Sapega, had remained in Minsk, and that the other landers had come from Greece and Belarus. The plane left Athens and was en route to Vilnius when it landed.