President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko spoke at the Oval Hall of the Government House, commenting for the first time on the forced landing of a plane in Minsk.
The main idea of his speech was “There was a terrorist on the plane, and they knew about it far beyond the borders of Belarus”. Meaning, probably, Roman Protasevich, who was detained by the security forces, who was on the international wanted list. At the same time, the Belarusian president was categorical:
Whether there was a bomb or not, if I was told that there was a terrorist on the plane, I would immediately give the order to land the plane.
Lukashenko said that the message about the mining of Ryanair came from Switzerland. According to him, he “acted lawfully, protecting people, in accordance with all international rules”:
What should we have done, especially against the backdrop of a cascade of threats to mine our facilities? You live in Belarus and you know: every day schools, universities, and enterprises are mined. And planes from IP addresses in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. In each case, we responded adequately to the information received.
Lukashenka also touched upon the topic of the forced landing of the Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius, saying:
Forcing the liner to land with a MiG-29 fighter is an absolute lie!
He explained that the tasks of the fighter include providing communications and, in a critical situation, taking a passenger aircraft for landing. And about the three “extra” passengers who preferred not to continue the flight and stay in Minsk, he spoke sharply: “They were made fake KGB officers.” Although, according to Lukashenka, the forced landing simply made it easier for them, since they initially planned to fly from Vilnius to Minsk.
The Belarusian leader also called the version of the forced retention of the crew and passengers “another delirium”, stressing that, despite the permission given by the authorities to continue the flight, they were in no hurry to leave the airport, holding lengthy telephone conversations with someone.
And in the end he complained about the protests in the country that erupted after last year’s presidential elections – no other state in the world “has faced such a multifaceted, multi-level terror.”
The address of Belarusian President Lukashenko was not broadcast live on television or radio. His words are quoted by the state media only in text format.