The pressured touchdown of a business flight on Sunday, seen by a number of international locations as a state hijacking, has put Belarus and its strongman president, Alexander G. Lukashenko, in a brand new world highlight.
It got here lower than a 12 months after Belarusians had been met with a violent police crackdown once they protested the outcomes of an election that many Western governments derided as a sham.
The Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, was diverted to Minsk utilizing the ruse of a bomb menace, in response to Western governments, with the aim of detaining Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old dissident journalist. In a video launched by the authorities, he confessed to collaborating in organizing “mass unrest” final 12 months, however mates say the confession was made below duress.
For these attempting to catch up, right here’s the background that can make it easier to observe together with the ongoing story.
By Scott Reinhard
Who is the president of Belarus?
President Alexander Lukashenko addressed the Parliament in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday.Credit…Pool picture by Sergei Shelega
Mr. Lukashenko was first elected in 1994. Outside observers believed it was a free and honest election, and he initially had huge help. But it’s tough to inform exactly how widespread he’s now since unbiased polling is generally unlawful and authorities polls are usually stored secret.
Understand the Situation in Belarus
Belarus in the highlight. The pressured touchdown of a business flight on Sunday, is being seen by a number of international locations as a state hijacking known as for by its strongman president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko.Election outcomes and protest. It got here lower than a 12 months after Belarusians had been met with a violent police crackdown once they protested the outcomes of an election that many Western governments derided as a sham.Forced aircraft touchdown. The Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, was diverted to Minsk with the aim of detaining Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old dissident journalist.Who is Roman Protasevich? In a video launched by the authorities, Mr. Protasevich confessed to collaborating in organizing “mass unrest” final 12 months, however mates say the confession was made below duress.
Many worldwide observers imagine latest elections have been blatantly rigged. In final 12 months’s August elections, the authorities introduced that Mr. Lukashenko had gained 80 % of the vote, broadly thought of an unbelievable end result amid a faltering financial system and mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. Several opposition candidates had been jailed or exiled, and worldwide election observers had been barred.
In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice known as Belarus “the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe,” and relations with the United States and a number of other different Western international locations are strained. The disaster has examined Mr. Lukashenko’s relationship with Russia, which has supplied sturdy help since final 12 months’s election however is a sophisticated ally.
Read extra about Mr. Lukashenko right here.
Who is Roman Protasevich, the detained journalist?
Mr. Protasevich is a co-founder and former editor of the Nexta channel on Telegram, a messaging app that has been utilized by protesters to share info and arrange demonstrations.
In a video launched by the authorities, Roman Protasevich confessed to collaborating in organizing “mass unrest” final 12 months, however mates say the confession was made below duress.Credit…Reuters TV
After years as a contract reporter he fled to Lithuania in 2019, believing himself protected in the European Union. He grew to become a key opposition determine working for Nexta, working towards a type of journalism blended with activism. He grew to become extra concerned with organizing road protests after the August election.
In November, prosecutors in Belarus charged him below a regulation that bans organizing protests that violate “social order,” and safety providers put him on an inventory of accused terrorists, a capital offense.
Read extra about Mr. Protasevich right here.
What occurred in the protests?
Protesters carried a wounded man throughout clashes with the police in Minsk after the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in August.Credit…Associated Press
In the three nights that adopted the vote on Aug. 9, the police aggressively crushed largely peaceable demonstrations with tear gasoline, stun grenades, rubber bullets and batons. Internet entry and cell phone service had been largely shut down.
Per week after the vote, tens of hundreds of protesters — some estimates put the crowd at 200,000 — converged in the heart of Minsk, the capital, and known as on Mr. Lukashenko to step down. Thousands of protesters had been arrested, and movies of officers beating civilians stoked anger. Some protesters threw rocks at cops.
Demonstrations continued for months, however didn’t succeed in forcing concessions from Mr. Lukashenko. In February, two journalists had been sentenced to 2 years in jail for reporting from an indication. On Monday, Mr. Lukashenko signed a regulation imposing harsh new restrictions on the information media.
Read extra about the protests right here, and the safety system that enables Mr. Lukashenko to keep up energy right here.
President Biden known as the arrest ‘shameful.’
People maintain paper planes throughout a protest in opposition to the detention of Roman Protasevich.Credit…Agencja Gazeta/Via Reuters
The Greek Foreign Ministry known as it a “state hijacking.” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland known as it an “act of state terrorism.”
President Biden known as for the launch of Mr. Protasevich, saying his arrest and the video he made below obvious duress had been “shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press.”
Belarus was successfully remoted, with airplanes now not flying to Belarus or in its airspace. The European Union known as for sanctions, and President Biden directed his group “to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible.”
Read extra about the worldwide tensions right here, and the impact on air journey right here.