Belarus Fakes A Bomb Threat To Get Journalist
Belarus Fakes A Bomb Threat To Get Journalist
Remember how journalists whined their heads off about how “dangerous” it was for the press to work under Donald Trump?
Well, the former Soviet satellite of Belarus could show them a thing or two about danger after the stunt their government just pulled. Apparently, Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has learned a few tricks from Vladimir Putin, though to my knowledge, Putin has never pulled off THIS particular stunt before. In order to arrest a journalist that Lukashenko considers a threat to his ongoing hold on power (conveniently, he has been president of Belarus since 1994), the Belarus government actually called in a bomb threat to the Ryanair flight that this particular journalist was on, in order to divert the flight, hold the plane, and arrest Raman Protasevich (his name is also spelled as Roman in multiple news sources).
Yes, you read that right. A bomb threat.
The aircraft was flying from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when it was diverted to land in the Belarusian capital.”
A spokesman for Ryanair said the flight’s crew were notified by Belarus air-traffic control of a potential security threat on board and were instructed to divert to the nearest airport, which was Minsk.”
A statement on Mr. Lukashenko’s official Telegram messenger app said Belarusian authorities received information that a passenger plane over the country’s airspace possibly had explosives on board and Mr. Lukashenko ordered a MiG-29 jet fighter to escort the aircraft to land in Minsk.”
Authorities didn’t provide details about the source of the information. Neither Mr. Lukashenko’s office nor Belarus’s Investigative Committee or emergency-services agency immediately responded to requests for comment clarifying the incident, including the chronology of events and exactly what occurred.”
The flight tracking is pretty clear that the Ryanair flight was close to Lithuania when they were ordered to Minsk, but what were the pilots supposed to do when a fighter jet shows up to “escort” them to Minsk?
And according to a witness, Protasevich knew exactly what was happening.
“I saw this Belarusian guy with girlfriend sitting right behind us. He freaked out when the pilot said the plane is diverted to Minsk. He said there’s death penalty awaiting him there,” passenger Marius Rutkauskas said after the plane arrived in Vilnius following several hours in the Belarusian capital.”
“We sat for an hour after the landing. Then they started releasing passengers and took those two. We did not see them again” Rutkauskas said.”
Ryanair, which is based out of Ireland, was eventually allowed to continue on to Lithuania – minus some passengers. And surprise! There was no bomb. And it is an open question as to who made the call to order the plane to land in Belarus instead of Lithuania.
A statement from the regime in Belarus claimed that it received a bomb threat while the plane was in Belarusian airspace, and president Aleksandr Lukashenko personally ordered the plane to “do a U-turn and land” — and ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to escort it. Belarus’ deputy air force commander Andrei Gurtsevich claimed that the plane’s crew made the decision to land in Minsk — which Ryanair’s statement seems to refute.”
Roman Protasevich and his companion were detained by authorities after the plane landed in Minsk. In a now deleted statement on Telegram, Belarus’s information ministry announced that Protasevich was arrested. The regime also announced that no bomb was found on board, and went so far as to say it was opening a criminal investigation into the false threat.”
The plane spent about seven hours on the ground, during which passengers were told to disembark while authorities inspected the aircraft. The flight eventually departed and continued on to Vilnius, where it landed 35 minutes later, at 9:25 p.m. local time. It had been scheduled to arrive at 1 p.m.”
Obviously, a hostile act like this is going to raise a lot of international questions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken put out an official statement late Sunday evening.
The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk. We demand his immediate release. This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens. Initial reports suggesting the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the plane are deeply concerning and require full investigation.”
The EU Commission is also upset, and is willing to talk about “consequences.”
The outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences.
Those responsible for the #Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned.
Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately.
EUCO will discuss tomorrow action to take.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 23, 2021
NEXTA, the channel founded by Protasevich, was central to the protests that broke out against Lukashenko last summer, and its founders would be among the regime’s most-wanted opponents. The outlet helped coordinate the largely leaderless demonstrations and published videos of them and police violence that helped catalyze the protests, which saw hundreds of thousands peacefully take to the streets calling for Lukashenko to step down. It and its sister channel NEXTA Live have close to 2 million subscribers.”
Belarus’ authorities placed Protasevich on a terrorism watchlist last year and have opened criminal cases against him on charges of organizing mass riots and inciting hatred, offenses that carry sentences of up to 12 to 15 years in prison. Belarus’ opposition have said they fear he could now face the death penalty. NEXTA is based in Warsaw, Poland, where its offices are kept under police protection.”
His seizure is part of a broader effort by Lukashenko’s regime to crush remaining opposition in the country after smothering the protests.”
Hey Biden, the 80’s are calling, it seems. Who is picking up the phone at 3 am in the Biden White House? We know it isn’t him.
The opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsihanouskaya, who many believe actually won the 2016 election in Belarus, is asking for help, and warning via her Twitter feed that no plane flying in Belarusian airspace is going to be safe if the EU and NATO don’t respond.
Belarusians need decisive actions & help of the international community. Forcing @Ryanair plane to land to detain Raman Pratasevich is the result of the regime's impunity. This is a real internal occupation. https://t.co/ddJGW2bXU5
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) May 23, 2021
Lukashenko’s history is what you would expect from an old-school Soviet communist who had it good then, and wants to stay in power now as a perpetual dictator. Vladimir Putin is likely offering a virtual fist bump to him from Moscow.
What happens now? A lot of political backchannels are probably running at top speed at the moment, trying to confirm Protasevich’s status and figure out who exactly was taken off the plane with him (the AP reports that in addition to his girlfriend, four other people did not get back onboard the plane). Were they with Protasevich – or were they watching him, and letting Belarus know that yes, he was on the plane? There are a lot of questions to be answered, and I’m sure that Lukashenko is anxious to answer exactly zero of them.
One thing is for certain – Joe Biden just can’t catch a break on the international front. Didn’t other countries know that since he isn’t Donald Trump, they shouldn’t give him a hard time? After all, it’s hard work for an old man who needs regular naps and isn’t allowed to answer questions to be the leader of the free world.