Russia Calls Belarus' Diversion of Passenger Plane Carrying Blogger 'Absolutely Reasonable Approach'

While many international leaders condemned Belarus' diversion of a passenger plane over the weekend to detain journalist and government critic Roman Protasevich, Russian officials approved the unusual measure.

"I think this is an absolutely reasonable approach," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a press conference on Monday. "A representative of the Belarusian foreign ministry... stressed the readiness of the Belarusian authorities to act on the issue in a transparent manner and to follow all international rules."

On Sunday MiG-29 fighter jet intercepted the Ryanair flight traveling from Greece to Lithuania, forcing it to land in Minsk.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's office said the authoritarian leader personally ordered the diversion after learning of a bomb threat. Belarus state media claimed that authorities had no choice but to force the landing and arrest Protasevich after the plane touched down.

No bomb was found on board, according to the country's law enforcement authorities.

Protasevich is a co-founder and former editor of the NEXTA channel on social media platform Telegram, which has become popular for the organization of demonstrations against Lukashenko's government.

Belarusian state television has claimed that authorities did not know Protasevich was on the flight when the diversion was ordered.

Earlier on Monday, Russian lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov said Belarus has the right to choose "methods that it considers feasible and necessary" to combat national security threats.

"It's an independent state. If they see a threat to their security, then they must fight this threat," Kalashnikov said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

Russia Belarus Plane Diversion Reasonable
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Belarus' diversion of a passenger plane over the weekend as an "absolutely reasonable approach." Above, he attends a press conference following a dialogue between ministers of Italy and Russia on February 18, 2020 in Rome. Antonio Masiello/Getty

Lavrov also called on the global community to "soberly assess the situation."

The United States, Britain, the European Union, NATO and the United Nations have been unified in their response condemning Lukashenko's actions and demanding an international investigation.

"This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a Sunday statement.

On Monday, the British government told all UK planes to cease flying over Belarus amid outrage over Protasevich's arrest and suspended the operating permit for Belarus' state-owned airline Belavia.

Ireland, where Ryanair is based, described the diversion as a "state-sponsored" act of "aviation piracy."

Russian officials have pushed back on the international fury against Belarus.

"It is shocking that the West calls the incident in Belarusian airspace 'shocking'," Russia's Foreign Ministry spokewoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook.

Zakharova called out Western powers for using similar tactics in the past to progress their own national security agendas, listing incidences like the "forced landings in Austria of the President of Bolivia at the request of the United States and in Ukraine after 11 minutes of taking off the Belarusian board with the anti-Maidan activist."

"The internet remembers all cases of violent abductions, forced landings and illegal arrests made by 'peace officers and guardians of morality'," she wrote.