Vladimir Putin welcomes Alexander Lukashenko amid wave of criticism from the West | News | DW
Russian President Vladimir Putin took Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko on a boat trip on Saturday as the two met for a second day of talks amid public outcry over Minsk’s decision to force a plane to land last week and arrest a dissident blogger.
“Yesterday was the day for official talks and today it is informal,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters of the meetings in Sochi, a city on the Black Sea.
Saturday’s talks were more ‘informal’ and Lukashenko’s son Kolya joined the two leaders for breakfast
Putin and Lukashenko took advantage of the “good weather” and left “by boat”, continued the spokesperson.
Saturday’s talks focused on economic cooperation and the coronavirus pandemic, according to Peskov.
Putin was keen to show his long-standing support for his ally in the face of the latest confrontation with the West.
Last Sunday, Minsk forced a Ryanair plane, which was headed for Lithuania, to land in the Belarusian capital, where authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a blogger critical of the Lukashenko government, and his 23-year-old girlfriend.
The West has since decried the decision to force the plane to land.
The United States on Friday announced punitive measures targeting the regime while Brussels urged EU-based carriers to avoid Belarusian airspace.
Putin and Lukashenko did not fear the events of last Sunday.
“Lukashenko provided his counterpart with detailed information about what happened on the Ryanair plane,” Peskov confirmed.
The Kremlin was “not indifferent to the fate” of the detained blogger’s girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, of Russian nationality, the spokesperson added.
At the same time, it was confirmed that Russia would go ahead with a second tranche of a $ 1.5 billion (€ 1.23 billion) loan to Belarus.
Moscow gave Minsk the first $ 500 million last October, intended to stabilize its neighbor, with the second installment due to be received before the end of June, news agencies RIA and Interfax reported.
jsi / sri (AFP, Reuters, dpa)