Europe, Russia , Media & Journalism, Power & Security Punish Belarus leader for Ryanair hijacking before air piracy becomes dictators’ new tool

May 25, 2021
By Trudy Rubin | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Perry World House Visiting Fellow Trudy Rubin speaks to our Wolk Distinguished Visiting Fellow Ambassador Alexander Vershbow about the recent 'hijacking' of a commercial airplane by Belarussian authorities.

Imagine you are flying over Europe in a European air carrier on your way home from a Greek vacation in the post-coronavirus era.

Suddenly, your plane does a 180-degree turn and lands in Minsk, Belarus. You see from your window that it is being “escorted” by a MiG-29 fighter jet. You are held for seven hours at the Minsk airport, while an exiled Belarusian dissident and his girlfriend are seized from among the passengers and hustled off by security police.

This act of air piracy was not a movie plot or the work of Mideast terrorists. It took place Saturday, when an (Irish-owned) Ryanair passenger jet flying from Greece to Lithuania was forced — on direct orders from Belarusian strongman President Alexander Lukashenko — to land in Minsk as it crossed through Belarusian airspace. The goal was to kidnap prominent Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, who has been living in exile in Lithuania and was flying home...

Yet the EU — and the Biden administration — must not forget that behind the Belarusian despot stands Putin. “Even with all we have done, we haven’t really changed Putin’s behavior,” says Alexander Vershbow, former U.S. ambassador to Moscow and deputy secretary general of NATO.

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