Belarus president rebuffs outrage above journalist
The president of Belarus has said his critics are "strangling" his country and waging "hybrid warfare".
Alexander Lukashenko told parliament common sense had been abandoned and "many red lines" crossed as Western countries imposed sanctions on Belarus.
He was defending the proceed to forcibly divert a good Ryanair plane, which was flying from Greece to Lithuania, to land found in Belarus on Sunday.
A Belarusian journalist who is a critic of Mr Lukashenko was arrested.
Roman Protasevich, 26, was first placed on a terrorism list this past year and says he fears the loss of life penalty. Belarus may be the only country in Europe and the ex - Soviet Union that nonetheless passes and carries out death sentences.
His Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, was also detained. They both now encounter criminal charges.
Videos of the pair have already been released, appearing to show them confessing to crimes. However, chances are they will be both speaking under duress.
Mr Lukashenko's responses were the initial he has manufactured in public about the incident, which has drawn Western outrage.
European leaders have accused Belarus of hijacking the plane, however the president has insisted he acted lawfully when he ordered its diversion.
Belarus claims the air travel had been diverted as a result of a bomb risk from Hamas, however the Palestinian militant group denied any involvement. Mr Lukashenko as well said the risk had started in Switzerland, however the Swiss authorities stated they knew nothing at all of it.
Mr Lukashenko insisted the bomb threat was true, and that the diversion of the Ryanair airline flight had taken place near a nuclear power plant.
"I had to safeguard people, I was taking into consideration the country's protection," he explained, adding that reports a fighter plane was delivered to force the plane to territory was an "absolute lie".
Mr Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex - Soviet nation for 27 years, accused the international network of interfering in the going of his country.
"This is not info warfare anymore, that is contemporary hybrid warfare," he told parliament in the capital Minsk. "We should do everything to avoid it learning to be a real war."
Mr Lukashenko vowed to respond harshly to any sanctions placed on Belarus, and said Western governments were using his country as a "testing site" to get access to Russia, a good close ally.
"The search for latest vulnerabilities is under method. In fact it is directed not merely against us . We happen to be training range, a testing site for them prior to the march to the East," the president said.
Russia has supported it has the neighbour.
"The Kremlin sees no reason not to trust statements from the leadership of Belarus," Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president's spokesman, told reporters.