A Plane To Land In Belarus To Arrest A Dissident
The claws of Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorship even reach the air. The Belarusian president today ordered a Ryanair plane — which was flying over the country bound for Lithuania — to land in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. Inside was a famous opposition blogger, Roman Protasevich , who was arrested shortly after landing by the Belarusian police.
The activist was included in a list of fugitives after massive street protests last year following an election in which Lukashenko won a landslide victory amid widespread allegations of fraud. “Protasevich is exposed to the death penalty in Belarus,” reported the Nexta Live network.
Belaruscurrently holds in jail or in exile almost all of the candidates who ran last year against Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. Journalists are threatened and torture has been frequent in prisons.
The plane, which was flying over Belarus from Athens to Vilnius, had almost reached Lithuania when it changed direction and was escorted to Minsk after it was reported that it had explosives on board, according to the Belarusian agency BelTA.
These reports about a bomb turned out to be false . The operation to force the plane to land appears “prepared”, and Belarus knew who was on board, an adviser to the Lithuanian presidency told Reuters.
After knowing the newsthe Belarusian opposition accused Minsk of “hijacking” the plane to arrest Protasevich, who was one of the founders of Nexta. The channel now has about 1.8 million followers. Last October, after a court found its content extremist, the channel changed the logo and changed the name to Nexta Live.
The plane has already landed in Lithuania, but without the Belarusian dissident Protasevich and, according to some sources, five other people.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, dismissed the incident with the Ryanair plane as inadmissible. “It is absolutely inadmissible to land in Minsk a plane heading from Athens to Vilnius. All passengers must have the possibility to continue their journey with safety guarantees. Any violation of international rules on air transport must have consequences,” Von wrote. der Leyen on his Twitter account.
For his part, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, stated that what happened should be investigated. Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tijanovskaya also called for an IATA (International Air Transport Association) investigation into the diverted flight.
The United Kingdom has warned of “serious consequences” for the diversion of the ship. The Spanish Foreign Minister, Arancha González Laya, had asked that the plane “freely follow its itinerary.” For his part, Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, had tweeted: “We hold the Government of Belarus responsible for the safety of all passengers and the plane.” And he asked that “all passengers” can continue their journey “immediately.”
Although Lukashenko’s ‘move’ was criticized in Europe, it did receive applause from some official Russian media . The head of the RT channel, Margarita Simonian, in charge of spreading the Russian government’s vision in different languages, was enraptured by the journalist’s arrest: “I never thought I would envy Belarus. But now I somehow envy them. The old man [ Lukashenko] has done marvelously. “
It was last November that the Belarusian Security Committee (KGB) included Protasevich and the other Nexta founder, Stepan Putilo, on its list of people involved in ‘terrorist acts’.
The Belarusian leader has thanked RT (funded by the Russian state) several times for providing journalists to help run the Belarusian state media after hundreds of employees went on strike in protest against his government.
Lukashenko said that RT, formerly known as Russia Today, had played a vital role in helping Belarusian state media continue to function despite massive protests from staff. “I am grateful for this support,” Lukashenko — who started as head of the Soviet state farm — said in an interview broadcast on RT on September 1.
On Monday Belarusian Foreign Ministry officials met with the Polish charge d’affaires in Minsk, Martin Wojciechowski, to request the extradition of the two men for criminal activity “through the ‘extremist’ channels Nexta and Nexta Live on Telegram.”, as reported by the Russian agency Sputnik.
The Telegram channel of the Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of the Interior of Belarus confirmed Protasevich’s arrest. But at first the Interior Ministry did not comment on the arrest, which once again puts the Lukashenko regime in the international pillory.
Originally published at https://zaviews.blogspot.com.