Russia says will defend, help Belarus if EU imposes sanctions

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Russia will defend Belarus and help it if the European Union imposes economic sanctions on Minsk over the grounding of a plane and arrest of a dissident blogger, the RIA news agency cited a Russian foreign ministry official as saying.

Many European nations have imposed flight bans on Belarusian aviation over the forced landing of a Ryanair flight on May 23.

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The EU is weighing further sanctions.

Last week, a Ryanair plane traveling from Greece to Lithuania with dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich aboard was diverted to Minsk after Belarusian flight controllers told the jet’s crew to land there because of a bomb threat.

Authorities then arrested Pratasevich, who ran a channel on a messaging app that was used to organize demonstrations against Lukashenko.

EU leaders denounced it as akin to air piracy and responded by barring Belarusian carriers from the bloc’s airspace and airports.

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