The “outlandish” “hijacking” of a plane over Belarus.

The EU is up in arms over the antics of Belarusian President Lukashenko. Using the ruse of a hoax bomb threat he managed to divert a passenger plane flying from Athens to Lithuania to Minsk as it overflew Belarusian airspace – the aim; to capture an opposition activist called Roman Protasevich. Roman Protasevich played a significant role in the protests against Lukashenko following contested elections last year; he worked on a Telegram Channel NEXTA which because the leading source of information for the protestors.

Roman Protasevich is misleadingly called a “journalist” by some media e.g. The Guardian. [1] However he is an anti-Lukashenko activist; for example having previously been a player in a VK channel “This Lukashenko bores us” . [2] On what appears to be the Twitter page of Roman Protasevich the author calls himself a “journalist-terrorist”:

The Twitter page clearly shows that Roman Protasevich is an activist – not a journalist. I am assuming that this is indeed the page of Roman Protasevich. (It appears consistent with what I have read about him and the page has a long history of Tweets meaning that if it is a fake it has been very carefully curated over a long time – which is unlikely).

Of course – that he is an activist working against the regime of Lukashenko does not justify the actions of Lukashenko. It is indeed “outlandish” (Dominic Raab) to divert a place overflying your airspace in order to capture a political opponent of your regime. It may even be fair to call it as “some European leaders do” according to The Guardian an “act of state terror and kidnapping”.

But – here is the rub. In 2013 allegedly at the behest of the US State Department a plane carrying the Bolivian President was diverted to Vienna in an apparent attempt to prevent Edward Snowden being smuggled out of Europe to Bolivia. (In fact Snowden was not on the plane). [3] At the time this was denounced as an “imperialist kidnapping” by the Bolivian Vice-President. The Bolivian side made the same point which outraged European leaders are making today; that diverting a plane in this manner puts innocent lives at risk. True; the diversion in the case of Morales (President of Bolivia) was achieved by the expedient of closing the airspace of two European countries at the last minute rather than a fake bomb threat as in Belarus but in all other respects the two cases are identical. A diversion of a civilian plane in order to try to capture a political opponent who is wanted on charges in your country.

You can’t have it both ways. Either it is wrong to divert planes to capture your political opponents or it isn’t. Of course; US and European leaders think that one standard applies to them and another to everyone else. They think that the law is for others to obey – not them. So all these Europeans leaders expressing their outrage today do show that they really believe that one rule applies to them and another for everyone else.

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/24/belarus-seizure-blogger-ryanair-flight-us-outcry
  2. http://spring96.org/ru/news/56498
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/03/edward-snowden-bolivia-plane-vienna

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer