Belarus hijacked a jet to kidnap a journalist — and Putin is bailing them out economically
Russian President Putin meets Belarusian President Lukashenko - Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during their informal meeting in Sochi as they take a boat trip off the Black Sea coast. - -/Kremlin/dpa

Russia is to support Belarus with 500 million dollars in credit over the coming weeks, the leaders of the two countries have agreed.

During a meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed the sum would be paid out by the end of June, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday, according to news agency Interfax.

This is the second tranche of a credit package that was agreed before the controversial forced landing of a passenger aeroplane in Minsk last Sunday in order to arrest a dissident blogger, Roman Protasevich, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

During their meeting in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Putin and Lukashenko spoke about trade and economic cooperation, Peskov said.

Belarus' economy is weak, and it has already borrowed billions of dollars from Moscow.

During the opening of the meeting on Friday, both leaders complained about pressure from Western countries on Belarus.

After the incident with the plane - a Ryanair commercial flight between the two EU capitals of Athens and Vilnius that was forced to reroute and land in Minsk - the European Union and the United States imposed fresh sanctions on Belarus, which the Kremlin slammed as an emotional reaction.

Peskov emphasized that the fate of Sapega, who is a Russian national, mattered to the Russian authorities, but said the 23-year-old had a residency permit in Belarus.