Belarus president causes Ryanair flight to land to arrest opposition activist
Considered the most brazen act from an Eastern European regime in a long time, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus had a the plane tailed by a fighter jet, and under the pretense of a bomb threat caused the plane to divert from its course (Greece to Lithuania) and land in Minsk.
No explosives were found but they arrested
Roman Protasevich, who is seen as taking on the role of a sort of hero in recent anti-government protests through a Telegram channel.
The country has him on charges of terrorism for his blogging on what the State calls extremist organization, and protest organizing, which the state refers to as organizing mass riots and enticing social hatred, it seems. Western powers are now calling Belarus' act one of 'State terrorism.'
The EU wants to react strongly, but people wonder how they can do so. Some considerations that might hurt the Belarusian regime include blocking Belarus from the international banking system, in cooperation with the US. They could sanction state companies that support the Belarusian regime. They could stop oil imports and exports--the EU is the second-biggest trade partner of Belarus after Russia.
Lukashenko said it was his country’s 'sovereign right' to arrest the activist: 'Let his numerous Western patrons answer this question: Which intelligence services did this individual work for? Not only him but his accomplice as well.'
Belarus later released videos of Protasevich and his girlfriend in custody confessing to crimes against the state. He said the activist had moved on from reporting solely on Belarus to 'working full out against Russia, thus showing the true goal of western strategists. ... Their goal is to dissolve the Belarusian people and move on to smothering their arch-enemy: the Russian.'
Lukashenko commented on the bomb threat: 'Was Chernobyl not enough?, If there was a bomb on board the plane and terrorists wanted to blow it up, we couldn’t really have helped. But I couldn’t let the plane fall on our people’s heads.'
Belarusian authorities also arrested 14 staff from the organization Protasevich worked for in a tax evasion case. There were reports of numerous incidents of violence against journalists in the country.
According to Reuters, 'a day after Protasevich's arrest, the government introduced new measures to regulate media activities, including a blanket ban on covering protests or publishing opinion polls without prior authorization from the government.'
Many people, not least of all Russian journalists, have pointed out that in 2013 the USA and EU countries forced a Bolivian plane--carrying that country's president Evo Morales--to land in Austria (it was en route from Moscow to Bolivia after a summit) for 13 hours because they thought fugitive US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden might be on board, who was charged with conveying classified information to an unauthorized party, disclosing communications intelligence information, and theft of government property.
The weekend following the incident, Lukashenko visited Putin and video footage was published of the two enjoying conversation and some laughs and dining together with Lukashenko's son on a yacht in the Black Sea in Sochi. During a televised conference between the two, Putin also brought up the 2013 incident of Morales' plane, laughing.
#Terrorism #Lithuania #FreeSpeech #press #EdwardSnowden