Plane incident put nuclear plant on high alert: Lukashenko

In his defiant remarks, his first in public since he ordered a warplane to intercept a Ryanair flight between EU members Greece and Lithuania, he showed no hint of backing down from confrontation with countries that accuse him of air piracy.

"The crew had time to decide. There were 123 passengers from various countries and six crew members in the air, in danger. And in the flight area, for your information, you know it well - the Belarusian nuclear power plant is placed. The plane diversion happened near the plant," Lukashenko told parliament.

Belarus has already been subject to EU and U.S. sanctions since Lukashenko cracked down on pro-democracy protests after a disputed election last year. But his decision to intercept an international airliner flying through his country's air space and arrest a 26-year-old dissident journalist has brought a new level of condemnation and vows of far more serious action.