Alexandr Lukashenko has confirmed the drone attack on a Russian A-50 reconnaissance aircraft at a military airport near the Belarusian capital Minsk at the end of February. During an award ceremony on Tuesday, the ruler spoke of a "terrorist attack" for which he blamed Ukrainian and American intelligence services.

Friedrich Schmidt

Political correspondent for Russia and the CIS in Moscow.

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The group BYPOL, which unites renegade Belarusian security forces, had informed last Sunday about the attack, in which the plane had been damaged. It was carried out by Belarusian partisans who were already out of the country.

A Belarusian deputy foreign minister spoke of a "fake" because there were no official Belarusian comments on it. The Kremlin referred to a Belarusian denial when there had been none. Lukashenko's propaganda claimed for days that the A-50 was undamaged and doing the usual service, even "accompanied" Lukashenko's plane on the return flight from a trip to China.

At the same time, however, a resident of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, was put out to search for the incident. Independent Belarusian media reported that the A-50 had been sent to Taganrog in southwestern Russia for repairs.

Lukashenko now admitted that the plane was damaged, but "fortunately" not much. Lukashenko also said the "terrorist" who lived in Crimea and "accomplices" had been arrested. The attack used "the highest technologies," Lukashenko said, insulting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, without whose consent "such an operation" could not be carried out, as "nits." In criminal jargon, this refers to prisoners who cannot defend themselves. Zelenskyi's office, however, said that the attack on the A-50 was "an anti-terrorist act carried out by partisans."

But Lukashenko also dismissed, as is his way, against the Russian allies, who use Belarus as a staging area in the war: He blamed the fact that the "Ukrainian saboteur" had reached Belarus on Russian border guards who would have let him pass. Lukashenko also stressed that the Russian aircraft in Belarus is "not a Russian aircraft", but part of a joint Belarusian-Russian unit.