Putin backs up Belarus’s Lukashenko amid international pressure
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered support to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as he faces a flood of criticism from Western nations over his detention of an opposition activist.
In a meeting with Lukashenko, Putin praised the strong economic ties between Russia and Belarus and called the criticism of Minsk “an outburst of emotions.”
“We have things to discuss even without these events. I mean to say that in the first quarter of this year, our trade grew by a considerable 18.4 percent, and Russia remains a key trade and economic partner of Belarus. This is a good trend, and it is important to keep it going along with the Government’s active work,” Putin said in a Kremlin readout of the bilateral talk.
The support from Putin, the leader of Belarus’s main ally, comes as Belarus faces an avalanche of new sanctions over its brazen detention of Rama Pratasevich, a 26-year-old opposition activist and journalist.
The U.S. Friday announced it would reimpose full blocking sanctions against nine state-owned enterprises in Belarus. The Treasury Department is also crafting an executive order to give President Biden the power to slap additional punishments on Lukashenko.
The European Union has already imposed new economic sanctions on the Eastern European country.
Lukashenko drew international ire this week when Belarus reportedly called in a bomb threat and scrambled a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight traveling from Greece to Lithuania, which Pratasevich was on, to land once it was in Belarusian airspace. The opposition activist was promptly arrested once the plane was on the ground.
Lukashenko this week defended Pratasevich’s detention, saying he “acted lawfully and was protecting the people according to all international rules.”