- Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko has launched a tirade against what he described as "ill-wishers."
- These are his first comments since a Ryanair plane carrying an opposition activist was forced to divert to Minsk on Sunday.
- The plane "hijacking" was widely condemned.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally of his supporters near the Government House in Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus August 16, 2020.Reuters
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday launched a tirade against what he described as "ill-wishers" who were trying to "strangle" his country.
In his first comments since a Ryanair plane carrying Roman Protasevich, a prominent Belarusian opposition activist, was forced to divert to Minsk on Sunday whereupon he was arrested, Lukashenko dismissed criticism from the West.
"As we have forecast, our ill-wishers from the outside and even inside the country have changed their methods of attacking the state. They have crossed many red lines, have crossed the boundaries of common sense and human morals," Lukashenko told Belarusian lawmakers and officials on Wednesday, state news agency BeITA reported.
The Ryanair plane was reportedly diverted on the personal orders of Lukashenko, although Belarus claims it believed there was a bomb threat which turned out to be false.
Lukashenko — who has been dubbed "Europe's last dictator" having ruled for 27 years, increasingly against a backdrop of repression of opposition activists and calls for democratic reforms — added that he acted "entirely lawfully" during the plane incident and claimed information about the bomb threat came from Switzerland, although he didn't elaborate on the source.