The EU strategically wants to bring Belarus closer to itself, and not give it into the hands of Russia, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said on Thursday.
“What we strategically do not want on the issue of Belarus is to hand it over to Russia. In past years, we managed to keep the country in an “either-or” situation”, – Schallenberg told the reporters ahead of an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Porto.
“In the end, we want – and this is our goal – to hear Belarus closer to us, not to push it away. This is a strategic challenge that we face”, – the minister added.
According to him, the actual “air piracy” carried out by Minsk shows how great the fear of President Alexander Lukashenko “before his own citizens” is.
The Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius on May 23 urgently landed at the Minsk airport due to a message about mining, which was not subsequently confirmed. This plane was flown by Roman Protasevich, the founder of the Nexta Telegram channel, recognized as extremist in Belarus.
He was detained while checking documents on previously initiated criminal cases against him under several articles, including the article “organizing mass riots”. He could face up to 15 years in prison. Following the discussion of Belarus on Monday, EU leaders made a political decision to ban flights of Belarusian aircraft in European airspace, and also recommended European airlines to avoid flying over Belarus. The EU called for new sanctions on Belarus to be adopted as soon as possible in connection with the aircraft incident. Now the decision of the EU leaders needs technical approval at the ministerial level.
Belarus responded by saying that the message about the mining of the plane had been sent to the e-mail of the Minsk airport. The commander of the crew himself decided to land in Minsk, there can be no question of any coercion or turn of the aircraft, said the commander of the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defense Forces Igor Golub. The Aviation Department of the Ministry of Transport of Belarus has published a transcript of the conversation with the Belarusian dispatcher of the Ryanair pilot. The decryption does not contain any threats from the dispatcher to the crew.