Belarusian Government Hijacks Airliner to Arrest Opposition Leader
This story is insane:
European Union leaders discussed punishing measures, and investigators were seeking more details about an audacious effort by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to snag the founder of a prominent opposition outlet. The leader sent up a MiG-29 fighter jet to escort a Ryanair flight down to the ground in Minsk, a power play that set a fearsome precedent for journalists and political opponents, who now must fear flying through the airspace of repressive regimes, even if they are moving from one free capital to another.
The Ryanair plane was nearing Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sunday before Belarusian authorities turned it around, made it land in their capital, Minsk, and arrested journalist Roman Protasevich, the founder of an opposition media outlet. He faces at least 12 years in prison.
The plane was on its way from Athens to Minsk, when a false bomb threat — obviously orchestrated by Lukashenko’s thugs — created the pretext to force a landing in Minsk. There, Lukashenko’s criminal gang with state authority arrested Protasevich, who had helped organize protests against the regime.
Several countries are responding by prohibiting flight over Belarusian air space. Meanwhile, the Russians think this was a great idea.
A number of Russian officials praised the move. Lawmaker Vyacheslav Lysakov wrote on his Telegram that it was a “brilliant special operation” by Belarus’s state security services. Kremlin propagandist Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of the government-funded TV channel RT, formerly Russia Today, said on Twitter that Lukashenko “performed beautifully,” adding that she is envious of Belarus.
The article notes that Putin and Lukashenko are likely to grow closer after the incident. They will meet this week.