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Putin hosts Lukashenko amid wave of criticism from the West

May 30, 2021

The two leaders, at odds with the West over recent political maneuvers, have enjoyed a boat trip near Sochi. Last week, a plane was forced to land in Minsk to arrest a blogger critical of the Lukashenko regime.

Putin and Lukashenko
Putin met with Lukashenko for a second day of talksImage: Sergei Ilyin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo/AP/picture alliance

Russian President Vladimir Putin took Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko for a boat trip on Saturday as the pair met for a second day of talks amid outcry over Minsk's decision to force a plane to land last week, and arrest a dissident blogger.

"Yesterday was the day of official talks and today it's informal," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters about the meetings in Sochi, a city on the Black Sea.

Putin and Lukashenko on a boat
Saturday's discussions were more 'informal' and Lukashenko's son, Kolya, joined the two leaders for breakfastImage: Sergei Ilyin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo/AP/picture alliance

Putin and Lukashenko took advantage of "the fine weather" and went "on a boat trip," the spokesman continued.

Saturday's talks had centered on economic cooperation and the coronavirus pandemic, according to Peskov.

Common ground

Putin was keen to show his longstanding ally support over the latest standoff with the West. 

Last Sunday, Minsk forced a Ryanair plane, which was en route to Lithuania, to land in the Belarusian capital, where authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a blogger critical of Lukashenko's government, and his 23-year-old girlfriend.

The West has since decried the decision to force the jet 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 shy away from the events of last Sunday.

"Lukashenko provided his counterpart detailed information about what happened on board the Ryanair aircraft," Peskov confirmed.

The Kremlin was "not indifferent to the fate" of the detained blogger's girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, a Russian national, the spokesman added.

Financial help

Meanwhile, it was confirmed Russia will move ahead with a second installment of a $1.5 billion (€1.23 billion) loan to Belarus.

Moscow gave Minsk the first $500 million last October, aimed at stabilizing its neighbor, with the second tranche set to be received before the end of June, both the RIA and Interfax news agencies reported.

jsi/sri (AFP, Reuters, dpa)