Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide has called Belarus’ forced landing of a civilian jet with an opposition leader on board both “shocking and totally unacceptable.” Just a week earlier, Belarus’ president Alexander Lukasjenko had tried to flatter Norway on its Constitution Day holiday, the 17th of May.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported Wednesday that Lukasjenko, known as “Europe’s last dictator,” sent congratulations to Norway’s King Harald “and all Norwegians” for its constitution that Lukasjenko himself would never honour. He’s now widely viewed as being behind what RyanAir calls a “state hijacking” of its flight from Athens to Vilnius on Sunday. Once on the ground in Minsk, exiled regime critic Roman Protasevitjs and his partner Sofia Sapega were arrested and taken into custody.
Lukasjenko, now being internationally bashed by democratic leaders, had just days before resorted to tactics well-known to those following the dictator. In his “greetings” to King Harald, he called Norway Belarus’ biggest “trade and cooperation partner in Northern Europe,” largely because Norwegian fertilizer company Yara has been one of the biggest customers of a state-run potash producer in Belarus. Yara has since condemned the forced landing of the RyanAir flight and been in “tight dialogue” about it with Norway’s foreign ministry.
Belarus’ dictatorial leader went on to write that he is “interested in pragmatic dialogue” with Norway and that Norway was worthy of its new seat on the UN Security Council. He also sent wishes for the Norwegian king’s health and continued success.
There was no word on Norway’s response, other than its support for new EU sanctions against Belarus.