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Russia confirms $500m mortgage for Belarus as West toughens sanctions

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Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko maintain second day of talks in Sochi as US imposes sanctions over airplane diversion scandal.

Russia has agreed to launch a second $500m mortgage to Belarus as Moscow stepped up its help for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko amid outrage within the West concerning the grounding of a European passenger airplane and the arrest of a dissident journalist.

The monetary help was introduced after Russian President Vladimir Putin held a second day of talks with Lukashenko, and handled his visitor to a yacht tour within the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Saturday.

The cash is a part of a $1.5bn mortgage that Russia promised Belarus as a part of Moscow’s efforts to stabilise its neighbour after mass protests broke out towards Lukashenko’s practically three-decade rule final yr.

Minsk obtained a primary instalment of $500m in October and can obtain the second tranche earlier than the tip of June, the RIA information company reported.

Putin and Lukashenko’s two-day summit got here because the European Union and the US denounced Belarus for utilizing a hoax bomb risk to drive a Ryanair jet to land in Minsk. Belarusian authorities despatched a fighter jet to escort the airplane down, earlier than arresting journalist Roman Protasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen.

Each are in jail accused of orchestrating mass riots. Protasevich may very well be jailed for as much as 15 years.

A number of European nations have imposed flight bans on Belarusian aviation, whereas the US mentioned that “full blocking sanctions” on 9 state-owned Belarusian firms will come into impact on June 3. Washington additionally mentioned it was working with the EU in drawing up a listing of focused sanctions towards key members of Lukashenko’s authorities.

Putin has criticised the West’s response, agreeing with Lukashenko on Friday that the response was “an outburst of emotion”.

Russia additionally pledged to think about growing flights with Belarus to offset the impact of the EU’s flight bans, based on Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Putin and Lukashenko “mentioned the organisation of air site visitors, bearing in mind the choice of European authorities and plenty of airways which have cancelled flights by way of [Belarusian] airspace, and bearing in mind that Belavia is not welcome in European cities,” Peskov mentioned. “The transport ministries of the 2 international locations – Russia and Belarus – are instructed to organise all features of air communication … with regard to the very fact numerous Belarusians should in some way return to their homeland.”

Putin additionally raised the subject of Sapega, Protasevich’s companion, Peskov mentioned.

“On the initiative of the Russian president, the subject of the Russian citizen, who was detained, was raised … Naturally, we aren’t detached to her destiny,” Peskov was cited as saying.

He added the Kremlin would pay attention to the truth that Sapega additionally has a Belarusian residency allow.

“Due to this fact, we proceed from the truth that all the things needs to be carried out inside the legislation. The president has instructed the Russian International Ministry to comply with the Russian citizen case with the utmost consideration,” Peskov added.

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