The rerouting of the Ryanair plane through Belarus, was possible only with the support of the Kremlin, said Judy Dempsey.
On May 23, Ryanair, on a commercial flight from Athens to Vilnius, was forced to land in Belarus. The crew had been told that there would be a bomb on board, but there was not.
Among the passengers on board was Roman Raman Protasevich, an independent journalist, activist and editor of the opposition Telegram channel Nexta.
When the plane doors opened after landing, Protasevich had been taken away by security officials, he said. Shortly thereafter, a video was broadcast on state television showing him injured and making a confession that he had harmed the interests of Belarus, which he had been forced to do, according to France24.
This shows how dissidents, considered troublemakers, would be pressured in Belarus during the communist era and until today, in 2021. A country bordering the European Union with a population of 9.5 million, many of whom protested peacefully last year against rigged presidential elections.
Alexander Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994. Thousands of men and women, young and old, students, workers and artists are in prison, he said. The independent media are almost destroyed.
This plane hijacking, with Kremlin support, could have happened to any of the 27 countries in the EU, Dempsey told Expresso.pt
The hijacking of the Ryanair plane by Belarus was only possible with the support of the Kremlin’s intelligence services, which never turned their backs on President Alexander Lukashenko after Putin continues to want to bring Belarus into Russia’s sphere of influence, according to Judy Dempsey – an analyst at Carnegie Europe and managing director of the publication Strategic Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin would continue to rely on a strategy of dividing Europe and creating divisions among the various countries of the European Community to strengthen his threat position.
The EU had hardly reacted to the events in Belarus until Protasevich’s abduction. It had only imposed some economic sanctions on high-ranking officials as well as Lukashenko himself, some companies, and their managers-that was all.
This reinforced the perception that the EU was powerless, Judy Dempsey said. The future of this country had continued to be in the hands of a regime supported by Moscow, despite the courage of citizens in Belarus.
The illegal rerouting of the Ryanair plane, she said, was just a test by Lukashenko of the safety of the airspace, that of the passengers, and the response of the EU.
“Lithuania and Poland are already providing great support. Warsaw has become a hub for transmitting messages to Belarus via the Belsat network, which was established several years ago. Lithuania has set up educational facilities for students. Much more could be done,” Judy Dempsey said.
The European Council agreed with EU leaders on May 24 to impose a list of measures in response to the kidnapping. Such as demanding the immediate release of Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, banning Belarusian airlines from EU airspace and European airports, and other sanctions – to isolate Lukashenko.
He said the EU must now take bold steps and avoid isolating the Belarusian people who want fair and free elections and an end to the Lukashenko regime.
Beyond sanctions, he said, the EU must now pursue a two-pronged strategy with the support of the United States.
“Economic sanctions are tactics, not strategic decisions,” Judy Dempsey said. The EU would not act with sufficient clarity and resolve.
- The EU could provide visas for people facing persecution or risk of arrest.
- The EU could fund schools and universities for Belarusians who want to study in Europe.
- The EU could provide legal assistance to those in prison.
- The EU could openly declare support for all political prisoners who are in jails.
- The EU could, to inform Belarusians, make better use of social media with a tool that Lukashenko takes down daily.
- The EU could support trade unions
Judy Dempsey: “Europeans should support political change in Belarus and political opposition movements.”
This is now an opportunity for EU to support society at large in Belars, she said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s May 24 promise to provide a EUR 3 billion ($3.7 billion) economic and investment package to Belarus “if it becomes democratic” is not a solution, but merely one of the usual promises to continue doing nothing.
The EU, the U.S. and especially Germany have influence over Putin through the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
“Postponing this controversial project should be the second element of the EU strategy.
The pipeline is almost ready. Although the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has lifted the threat of sanctions against the companies involved in the project – in the interest of relations with Germany – it is time to reconsider this decision.
If anything, the Protasevich case shows that today the EU must prepare for the day after. Waiting is not an option.” said Jody Dempsey in Carnegie Europe.
Here also in german: Die Entführung eines Flugzeugs durch Weißrussland – mit Unterstützung des Kreml