Sanctions made it difficult to maintain the presidential helicopter, Alexander Lukashenko has said Presidents of Russia and Belarus, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, in Minsk, May 24, 2023. © Sputnik/Valery Sharifulin

Iran’s inability to service its American-made helicopters due to US sanctions surely played a role in the fatal crash that killed the country’s leader, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has said.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian were among those killed on Monday when their Bell helicopter crashed in the mountains on the way back from Azerbaijan.

“As a person, and not as a president, I will say that the vile, disgusting position of the United States led to this,” Lukashenko said on Friday at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk.

“I mean, first of all, the sanctions. These scoundrels had no right to impose sanctions against ships, against planes, helicopters that transport people,” Lukashenko added. “They banned their companies from servicing [Raisi’s helicopter]. Therefore, this is also their fault.”

Lukashenko also noted that the US has sanctioned his own presidential airplane.

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Putin, who was visiting Minsk to discuss nuclear drills and other key issues, noted that the two other helicopters in the Iranian convoy were of Russian manufacture.

“Russian-made helicopters flew without any special difficulties in the same conditions, in the same corridor, in fact, without any problems,” Putin told reporters.

Tehran has yet to ascertain the cause of Monday’s crash. Preliminary results released by the Iranian military on Thursday said that the helicopter never deviated from its flight path. The presidential aircraft crashed onto a mountainside and caught fire, according to the report. No shrapnel or bullet marks were found on the remains of the chassis, discounting rumors that the helicopter may have been shot down.

Lukashenko expressed hope that Iran will “figure out what happened there,” describing Raisi as “a normal, kind person who conducted a frank, honest dialogue, was concerned about the development of his own state and protecting the interests of his own people.”

The Kremlin has denounced as offensive statements by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the Iranian people “are probably better off” without Raisi and that Washington is “certainly not mourning his death.” (RT)