© Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
Sanctions & support for opposition movements from abroad is driving Europe down a dangerous path, Belarus' long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko has claimed, in an explosive new broadside against the EU and its politicians.

In an interview with Sky News Arabia published on Wednesday, the embattled president said that "the Europeans [are] directing a hybrid war against us, Russia, and even China."

Calling the leaders of EU states "crazy politicians" who are dependent on the US, Lukashenko argued that their approach to Moscow, Minsk and Beijing "isn't just creating a hotbed of tension - they are pushing for a third world war."

Lukashenko's government has faced a series of new political sanctions since its officials ordered a Ryanair flight transiting the country's airspace to land, telling the pilots at the time that they had received credible intelligence that a bomb was on board. However, once on the ground, security operatives arrested two prominent opposition activists who had been on board, Roman Protasevich and Sophia Sapega.

© EPA/Toms Kalnins
Roman Protasevich • Sofia Sapega
The incident quickly turned into a major spat with the EU, with Brussels describing it as "state-sponsored piracy." A number of airlines have since refused to fly through Belarusian airspace, and the country's national airline, Belavia, has faced restrictions operating within the 27-state bloc.

The detained pair were accused of organizing the protests that have rocked the country since Lukashenko declared victory in last summer's presidential election which the opposition, and many international observers, say was rigged.

In May, representatives of the US' National Endowment for Democracy (NED) were duped by a notorious pair of Russian pranksters into disclosing their organization's role in fomenting the unrest that followed the election. Nina Ognianova, who oversees the NED's work with local groups in Belarus, told YouTube stars Vovan and Lexus that the American funding body had been providing support to "community organizing" networks, and claimed credit for the protest movement.