The US and EU governments are accusing Belarus of “state terrorism” for forcing a RyanAir flight containing Roman Protasevich, an anti-Lukashenko activist, to make an emergency landing after a bomb hoax.
He participated in the Euromaidan,
although other reports that he worked as a press secretary for the Azov Battalion in the subsequent Donbass War all seem to date from the past few couple of days and are of dubious authenticity EDIT: In a 2020 interview with Yury Dud’, Protesavich himself admitted that he spent a year in the zone of the ATO in Donbass and sustained several injuries (h/t Ivan Katchanovski), though he claims he worked in an exclusively journalistic capacity. However, as Katchanovski points out, Google searches fail to show any of his credited photos/publications about that war. Moreover, an issue of the “Black Sun” magazine of the Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in which he poses in camo (right) has recently been dug up (h/t Insomniac Resurrected). Associations that would get you permanently canceled/deplatformed in the West are quietly tided over when you serve Western geopolitical interests. /EDIT. During the late 2010s, he worked for various Western-sponsored media organizations, including RFERL. In the runup to last year’s elections, he co-founded the Telegram channel “NEXTA” that coordinated many of the protests during the abortive Minsk Maidan. In Belarus, he faces charges of organizing mass riots, as well as doxing the identities of riot policemen and calling for reprisals against them.
I can’t judge to what extent those allegations are accurate. But the main issue of contention isn’t so much that, but the allegations that Belarus was committed “air piracy” or even “state terrorism” in pursuit of a political prisoner. These criticisms might have some merit, as phoning in fake bomb threats and sending a MiG-29 to tail a commercial airliner to force it to make a landing does seem to be an extreme step. Or it would be, had Western countries and their client states not repeatedly engaged in such politicized “air piracy” itself over the past few years.
First, there was the 2013 episode with respect to the Presidential airliner of Evo Morales, which was forced into making a landing in Austria after a wall of countries including France, Spain, and Italy denied airspace to his plane. This was because back in Moscow, Morales had hinted that he was open to offering Snowden asylum, which spurred the US into demanding its vassals ground the plane.
Second, there was an entirely analogous plan jointly implemented by the Ukraine and the US to lure Russian mercenaries from Wagner with fake job offers in Venezuela by way of Minsk and Istanbul, and nab them while they were over Ukrainian airspace. (Amusingly, after Lukashenko handed the Wagnerites back to Russia instead, the Ukrainians put him on their “Peacekeeper” list of enemies of the Ukrainian nation). Indeed, Western media coverage of this failed operation, to the extent it happened at all, was decidedly not in the “state terrorism”/”air piracy” frame. For instance, Business Insider Mitch Prothero’s title says it all: How Ukraine’s audacious secret service successfully scammed Putin and his mercenaries” by Mitch Prothero.
Western media when Belarus forces civilian jet to land for political reasons: "State terrorism," "air piracy."
Western media when Ukraine/US tries (but fails) to force civilian jet to land for political reasons: "How Ukraine's audacious secret service successfully scammed Putin" pic.twitter.com/nEaYyLqZ2m
— 🇷🇺 ANATꙮLY 🤔 KARLIN (@akarlin88) May 24, 2021
Westerners aren’t so happy when countries that aren’t in their club pull their own tricks against them.
Anyhow, from Russia’s perspective, it would certainly be good if the EU goes ahead with all of the sanctions it is now considering – banning Belavia and flights over Belarus, withdrawing recognition of Belorussian pilot licenses, and perhaps even suspending ground transit into Belarus (this is apparently getting seriously discussed). Some countries, including Lithuania and the UK, have already banned their air carriers from making flights over Belarus. The more isolated Belarus from the West, the brighter the prospects for its reunification with Russia.