LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Monday it was difficult to believe that Russia was not involved, at least by acquiescence, in the jet incident in Belarusian airspace but that London had no clear evidence of Moscow’s involvement yet.
Belarusian authorities scrambled a fighter jet and flagged what turned out to be a false bomb alert to force a Ryanair plane to land on Sunday and then detained an opposition-minded journalist who was on board, drawing condemnation from Europe and the United States.
Asked in parliament by a lawmaker about possible Russian involvement in the incident, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We don’t have any clear details on that.
“I’ll be careful what I say at this point, because as he says it’s very difficult to believe that this kind of action could be taken without at least the acquiescence of the authorities in Moscow, but as I say it is unclear as yet.”
Russia on Monday accused the West of hypocrisy in its outraged response to the diversion of an airliner to the Belarusian capital Minsk. No evidence has yet been published to show Russian involvement in the incident.
Raab said Britain was working with allies on a coordinated response including further sanctions on Belarus which has been led by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994.
Britain summoned the Belarusian ambassador to London over the arrest of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich.
Raab also said Britain was issuing a notice to advise British airlines to cease flights over Belarusian airspace and that it would suspend the air permit for Belarus airline Belavia with immediate effect.
“Lukashenko’s regime must be held to account for such reckless and dangerous behaviour,” Raab told parliament.
“The scenario as reported is a shocking assault on civil aviation and an assault on international law. It represents a danger to civilian flights everywhere.”
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Paul Sandle, Elizabeth Piper and Michael Holden)