President Alexander Lukashenko has accused exterior “ill-wishers” of waging a “hybrid battle” towards Belarus as he defended Minsk’s pressured diversion of a passenger airplane, an incident that led to international outrage.

Belarus on Sunday pressured a Ryanair flight heading from Greece to Lithuania to land in its capital in response to an alleged bomb menace.

Belarusian authorities then detained Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old reporter and critic of longtime ruler Lukashenko, alongside together with his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, who have been on board.

Each now face felony prices.

In his first public feedback on Sunday’s transfer, Lukashenko mentioned he had acted legally and in accordance with worldwide norms, the state-run Belta information company reported.

The 66-year-old claimed he needed “to guard folks” by diverting the flight and dismissed reviews {that a} Mig-29 fighter jet pressured the plane to land as an “absolute lie”.

Lukashenko accused critics of making an attempt to make use of the airplane episode to undermine his 27-year-long rule.

“As we predicted, our ill-wishers from exterior the nation and from contained in the nation modified their strategies of assault on the state,” Lukashenko advised members of parliament.

“They’ve crossed many pink traces and have deserted widespread sense and human morals.”

Lukashenko vowed to reply harshly to any sanctions or provocations, threatening to weaken the nation’s border controls halting Western-bound migration and drug trafficking.

Russia, which has offered safety, diplomatic and monetary backing to Minsk, mentioned on Wednesday that it had no purpose to distrust the Belarusian clarification.

In response to the airplane diversion and arrest of Protasevich, the European Union is imposing more sanctions on the ex-Soviet nation and has banned Belarusian airways from the 27-nation bloc.

A number of air carriers have additionally suspended flights over Belarusian airspace.

Protasevich, Sapega confessions

Lukashenko’s remarks got here after Protasevich – who left Belarus in 2019 – and Sapega appeared in separate movies to make confessions that the president’s opponents say appeared pressured.

In a video posted on-line on Monday by Belarusian authorities, Protasevich mentioned he was in good well being and being held in a pretrial detention facility in Minsk.

He acknowledged having performed a job within the mass anti-government rallies that shook Belarus final yr following a disputed August election that handed Lukashenko a sixth time period.

In a video aired on state TV on Tuesday, Russian citizen Sapega mentioned she was an editor of a Telegram messaging app channel that had publicised the private knowledge of Belarusian legislation enforcement personnel, against the law in Belarus.

The Russian international ministry mentioned in a press release that Sapega, a 23-year-old scholar, may face felony prices below a number of articles of the Belarusian felony code.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the chief of the Belarusian opposition who’s in exile in Lithuania, tweeted that Sapega seemed to be below psychological strain.

Belarusian authorities will preserve Sapega in a pretrial detention facility for 2 months, Russia’s TASS information company reported, citing her father, Sergey Dudich.

Sapega’s mom, Anna Dudich, advised Reuters her daughter was harmless.

‘We have now to cease the fear’

Lukashenko on Wednesday mentioned Protasevich had deliberate a “bloody rebel” in Belarus and mentioned avenue protests would now not be potential within the nation, TASS reported.

Minsk cracked down forcefully on final yr’s protests. The quantity of people that have been arrested for taking part within the rallies is known to be within the tens of 1000’s.

The EU and the US have imposed sanctions towards Minsk over its response to the protests.

Nonetheless, the measures have seemingly had no impact on the behaviour of Lukashenko, who has continued to clamp down on dissent.

Since his re-election, authorities have rounded up extra of his opponents, with all main opposition figures now in jail or exile, and moved to shutter unbiased media shops.

Tsikhanouskaya mentioned on Wednesday that the Belarusian opposition was making ready to stage a brand new part of lively anti-government protests regardless of the crackdown.

“There’s nothing extra to attend for – we have now to cease the fear as soon as and for all,” she mentioned.