State-Sponsored Terrorism: EU Sanctions Belarus Over ‘Hijacked’ Jet to Snatch a Critic

Written by | Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

European Union leaders have agreed a first wave of economic sanctions against Belarus over Sunday’s (23 May) hijacking and said there were more to come. The EU “calls on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus” and will “ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines”, leaders said in a joint statement after meeting in Brussels on Monday (24 May). Brussels triggered new economic sanctions against Belarus and punitive measures against its national airline as the Lukashenko regime’s critic and journalist, Roman Protasevich, taken from a “hijacked” Ryanair flight was paraded on the country’s television news apparently confessing to crimes against the state.
The EU statement came shortly after the release of the video in which Protasevich denied reports he had suffered health problems since his arrest in the Belarusian capital and said he was confessing to inciting mass riots, a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. US President Joe Biden has welcomed the EU moves and added that his team was assessing “appropriate options”, as the father of the opposition blogger said his video confession appears forced. Dzmitry Protasevich, said the video comments on Monday seemed to be a result of coercion. “It’s likely his nose is broken, because the shape of it has changed and there’s a lot of powder on it.” Dzmitry Protasevich told the media late on Monday from Wroclaw, Poland, where he and his wife live. “It’s not his words, it’s not his intonation of speech. He is acting very reserved and you can see he is nervous,” Protasevich said of his son.
Meanwhile, Chinese dissidents living in Australia have expressed alarm over the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to Belarus, warning it may set a precedent for Beijing to hijack commercial aircraft carrying people it considered enemies of the state. Belarusian authorities used a bomb scare and dispatched a fighter jet to force a passenger jet flying between two EU member states to land in Minsk to arrest an opposition figure and critic of Lukashenko’s regime on board. The incident has raised fears among the Australian Chinese dissident community that catching an international flight anywhere might be dangerous in the future. “There is a direct connection with the situation in Belarus and people like me who criticize an authoritarian regime from outside Chinese soil,” the Shanghai-born Chinese-Australian political cartoonist Badiucao told The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday (25 May). “Stopping a plane – almost hijacking it – for political reasons is very scary.“

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