Polish deputy FM downplays Lukashenko's accusations

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski has told PAP that no-one can take seriously the statements made by the Belarusian strongman, Alexander Lukashenko, who accused Poland of interfering with Belarusian affairs.

Lukashenko on Wednesday told the government and parliamentarians that the forced landing of Ryanair's Athens-Vilnius flight in Minsk came after numerous reports about bombs, including on planes, that Belarus has been receiving "from IP addresses in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia."

"It is yet another piece of fake news that Alexander Lukashenko uses in an attempt to mislead the public and to justify his persecution of the opposition, his putting people in prisons and torturing them," Jablonski told PAP.

"I don't think any responsible person should treat his statement seriously," Jablonski added.

Lukashenko said Belarus had to respond to the bomb threat concerning the Ryanair flight.

The Belarusian government used the opportunity of the forced landing to arrest one of its most vocal critics, Roman Protasevich, and the West sees the unplanned landing, made under threat from a Belarusian interceptor plane, as state terrorism.

In his speech, Lukashenko also said that "enemies of Belarus" cannot forgive Minsk that it has managed to "expose their numerous plots" and therefore they have abandoned "organising mutinies" and went on to "the stage of suffocation."

Lukashenko warned that Belarus will respond harshly to "any sanctions, attacks or provocations," and vowed that the sanctions will be compensated for "in other directions and on other markets."

He also accused Poland and Lithuania of being "sanctions-crazy."

"First and foremost, we should continue to remind people that Belarusian oppositionists and Polish activists in Belarus are being detained illegally in Belarusian prisons," the Polish deputy minister continued, adding that international pressure should be in place as long as those people are not released.