NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with the British radio station Times Radio that there were indirect signs that Russia may have been involved in the emergency landing of the Ryanair plane in Minsk. According to Stoltenberg, Russia's cooperation with Belarus is one such sign.
Stoltenberg said that he cannot divulge the details of the intelligence data regarding the incident, but the landing of the plane was not only a violation of airspace rules but also an "attack on the democratic opposition of Belarus."
"We know that Belarus and Russia cooperate very closely in almost all sectors, including airspace defense. Secondly, Russia is one of the few countries that has not recognized that the forced landing of the plane was completely unacceptable," he said, answering the question of whether Russia could be involved in the incident.
NATO Secretary General also said that relations between the North Atlantic Alliance and Russia are now "at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War."
"We see a typical Russia's behavior. In addition, we see Russia’s desire to use armed forces against its neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia. And we also see cyberattacks, attempts to interfere in our political democratic processes, undermine faith in our institutions and attempts to divide us," Stoltenberg said.
On May 23, the Belarusian authorities diverted a Ryanair flight with former editor-in-chief of the opposition media outlet Nexta, Roman Protasevich. The passengers were ordered to leave the plane, after which Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia were detained.
The journalist is charged under several articles of the Criminal Code: the organization of mass riots (Article 293 of the Criminal Code), the gross violation of public order (Article 342 of the Criminal Code), and incitement of hostility (part 3 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code). The maximum sentences under these articles are 15 years' imprisonment, 3 years, and 12 years, respectively.