Lukashenko: Belarus arrests over 20 people over damage to Russian plane

Lukashenko: Belarus arrests over 20 people over damage to Russian plane

Lukašenko: Belarus arrests over 20 people for damaging Russian plane

Belarus's Machulishchy Air Base near Minsk in this February 19, 2023 Planet Labs PBC satellite image, center A-50 reconnaissance aircraft.

Minsk – Belarusian security forces have detained over twenty people in connection with the recent damage to a Russian military plane at a Belarusian airport, the country's authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko announced. The Belarusian opposition previously said that guerrillas damaged an A-50 early-warning military aircraft at Machulishchy airport near Minsk in late February. The Belarusian and Russian authorities have so far categorically rejected information about the diversion, the BBC noted on its Russian-language website.

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Now, according to the independent server Naša Niva, Lukashenko has admitted that the Russian reconnaissance aircraft A-50 suffered damage during the attack, which, according to him, is negligible. “Fortunately, the plane did not suffer any significant damage, except – as they say – scratches and one hole in the fuselage, which does not prevent a military aircraft from fulfilling its duties,” said the Belarusian leader and a close ally of the Kremlin. According to him, the aircraft damaged the drone.

Lukashenko said that although the plane was operational, he asked Moscow to send another plane to the country. “That also happened,” Lukashenko said. In fact, no new reconnaissance aircraft of a similar type has yet been spotted by observers in Belarus, Naša Niva noted. According to the BBC, the damaged plane was transported to Taganrog, Russia for repair.

In connection with the diversion at the airport, Lukashenko informed about the detention of a Russian-Ukrainian citizen, who, according to him, cooperates with the Ukrainian and American secret services, and more than twenty of his accomplices who were on the territory of Belarus. “The Security Service of Ukraine and the leadership of the (US secret service) CIA behind closed doors are conducting an operation against the Republic of Belarus,” said the Belarusian leader, who, according to him, ordered a nationwide “purge” with the aim of arresting other saboteurs involved in the attack in Belarus.

Aljaksandr Azarau, the head of the opposition organization ByPol, which brings together former representatives of the Belarusian security forces, previously attributed the attack on the Russian plane to Belarusian partisans. According to Azarau, the damage is so severe that the machine is inoperable. According to him, the action at the airport was carried out by Belarusian partisans from the Peremoha (Victory) movement using two drones. According to ByPol, the partisans managed to leave the territory of Belarus. The A-50 aircraft was the only one in Belarus – every time it took off, the Ukrainian authorities declared an air alert because the machine can coordinate missile strikes.

Belarus, which is Russia's closest ally, did not send its soldiers to war against Ukraine, but it gave Moscow its territory to attack a neighboring country. In the initial phase of the invasion, Russian troops led the offensive on Kiev from there. After heavy losses, however, it withdrew from the north of Ukraine after a few weeks.

Lukashenko today repeated his earlier statement that Belarus will not allow itself to be “drawn” into the conflict that Moscow started more than a year ago with its invasion of Ukraine. “If you think that by making this challenge you will drag us tomorrow into the war that is already raging in Europe today, you are wrong,” the Belarusian leader said to Kiev and Washington. He previously stated that his army would only engage in fighting if Belarus was attacked. Kyiv has long been afraid of a new attack from Belarusian territory, Reuters pointed out.