Russia has agreed to launch $500m in credit score to Belarus and look to extend the variety of flights between the 2 international locations because the Kremlin doubled down on its help for Alexander Lukashenko after his compelled touchdown of a passenger flight that has sparked western condemnation.

Russian president Vladimir Putin hosted Lukashenko in Sochi on Saturday, treating his visitor to a yacht journey on the Black Sea a day after the 2 males held talks for greater than 5 hours.

The 2-day summit has underscored Moscow’s place because the embattled autocrat’s closest and most dependable overseas ally, and passed off because the US joined the EU in imposing sanctions towards Minsk.

Russia’s help for Lukashenko was in stark distinction to US and EU condemnation and will complicate preparations for a summit between Putin and US president Joe Biden in Geneva subsequent month, which has been billed as an effort to normalise relations between Moscow and the west.

Belarusian authorities used a bomb threat and a fighter jet to pressure a Ryanair flight travelling between Greece and Lithuania to divert to Minsk on Might 23, the place police then detained Roman Protasevich, a number one dissident journalist, who was on board.

That brazen transfer, described by Ryanair as “state-sponsored piracy”, provoked condemnation from western international locations.

The EU has banned Belarus state airline Belavia from its airports and pledged to impose further sanctions towards the nation, whereas Biden on Friday reimposed “full blocking sanctions” towards 9 Belarus state-owned corporations.

The Kremlin has criticised the west’s response and, introduced {that a} delayed $500m mortgage to Minsk could be launched by the top of June.

The cash represents the second tranche of a $1bn monetary package deal Moscow agreed in December to bolster Lukashenko’s funds, which have been hit by the fallout from mass protests towards his fraudulent election victory final yr, and the influence of Covid-19.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated the transport ministries of Russia and Belarus would work collectively to “organise air transportation” that will permit Belarusians to journey to Russia for summer season holidays and to fly residence from European international locations by way of Russia, offsetting the influence of the EU’s flight ban.

“President Lukashenko knowledgeable [Putin] intimately about what occurred to the Ryanair airplane,” Peskov advised reporters, including that the talks have been “very constructive, wealthy in content material”.

The Kremlin has dismissed as “Russophobia” western claims that Moscow assisted Minsk within the operation to arrest Protasevich or was given advance warning.

The dissident based a media channel that reported on and helped co-ordinate protests towards Lukashenko.

Russia this week compelled at the least two European airways to cancel flights to Moscow after it didn’t approve new flight plans involving a detour round Belarus.