Vladimir Putin has refused to say if he would observe Alexander Lukashenko’s lead and drive a passenger jet to land if he knew one of many Kremlin’s needed males was flying over Russia.
“I’m not going to let you know,” he mentioned in feedback made in the course of the plenary session of Russia’s premier funding discussion board in St Petersburg on Friday.
Whereas clearly uncomfortable when being requested about his ally’s latest conduct, the Russian president provided a sturdy defence whereas reverting to claims of ignorance.
Mr Putin mentioned he knew nothing concerning the blogger – Roman Protasevich – who the Belarusian president commandeered off a Ryanair flight final month. He additionally forgot to say Mr Protasevich’s girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen, who has been held with out fees.
“I don’t need to provide you with my evaluation about what occurred,” the Russian chief mentioned. “I truthfully don’t know. I don’t know Roman Protasevich and don’t need to know him. Let him do what he desires to do. Let him combat with the regime.”
Fears are rising that Mr Protasevich is being subjected to critical bodily and psychological hurt whereas beneath Mr Lukashenko’s watch.
A video of a “confession” interview recorded beneath duress confirmed wrists with deep flesh wounds suggesting intentionally improper use of handcuffs. On Monday, Mr Lukashenko made a scarcely veiled menace handy his opponent over for a loss of life penalty trial by the hands of Russian-backed combatants in jap Ukraine.
Nonetheless, Mr Putin insisted the problem was a “home Belarusian affair”, and claimed Russia was making an attempt to carry a “impartial place” whereas the West was “interfering”.
He laughed away suspicions that Russian brokers might even have been concerned in planning the operation to kidnap Mr Protasevich.
“I noticed all these statements made by Nato’s management that Russia had taken half, however I need to say this: if Nato is making statements like this, it’s in actual hazard,” he mentioned. “It means individuals don’t perceive the processes concerned.”
For all his phrases about nationwide sovereignty, Mr Putin made a number of sudden interventions into US home politics.
With no trace of irony, he drew consideration to what he mentioned was an extreme clampdown on Trump supporters. These concerned in post-election clashes on Capitol Hill weren’t rioters, he mentioned, however “People with political calls for”.
“Greater than 450 individuals had been arrested, and now all face prison fees,” he mentioned. “Rubber bullets can take out your eyes, you already know. Inform the victims: there, there, it’s solely a democratic bullet.”
Mr Putin, who seemed to be in usually accommodating mode forward of his 16 June summit with Joe Biden in Geneva, mentioned the Kremlin was not, the truth is, in direct battle with the USA.
“We’ve got just one disagreement with them,” he mentioned.
“They need to rein in our growth. The whole lot else derives from that.”