Russian “Brotherly Assistance” in Forced Landing of Raynair Flight Is Not Unlikely
EU leaders completely rewrote the agenda of their summit discussions on Monday after learning with dismay that Belarus had forced a passenger plane carrying a wanted journalist to divert and land in its capital.
The scandal is huge. A passenger plane taking off from one EU country with destination in another EU country gets hijacked in mid-air and lands in a dictatorship, where innocent passengers are abducted.
By the way, as pretext, the pirates had used the internationally accepted protocols in case of a bomb alert.
Which probably means that the rule books are flawed.
This is scary.
But it also is interesting to note in passing how scared dictators are of journalists.
According to reports quoted by the Greek daily Kathimerini, 170 passengers were aboard the Ryanair flight from Athens.
After seven hours on the ground in Minsk, the plane took off without six of the passengers: journalist Roman Protasevich, his partner, and four Russian nationals. It is not unlikely that those four Russian men had actually taken part in the operation.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko is friends with Vladimir Putin and so are the two countries’ secret services, as the photo illustrating this AFP story shows.
The Russian secret services are, of course, much more powerful than the Belarusian KGB. Providing “brotherly assistance” is for the Russians the best way to put the former Soviet Republic under total control.
At the EU summit, possibly the most interesting revelations could come from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, because the covert operation started at the Athens airport.
But we doubt Mitsotakis will get into this today.
However, it is very unfortunate that Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias has accepted an in-person meeting in Sochi with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. At the same time, Greek businesses are calling for the lifting of the EU sanctions on Russia.
If the covert action started in Athens, we think it is because Russian agents are much more at ease in some EU capitals than in others. Vienna is another such capital (remember the film The Third Man?).
On 2-5 June, Russia is holding its annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. According to press reports, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is among those due to address the forum online. We think he should reconsider.
EU leaders will certainly discuss new sanctions against Belarus, but they should also consider pursuing a less contradictory policy towards Russia. While sanctioning Belarus, EU leaders should also avoid hurting the people of Belarus, the vast majority of whom are against the dictator.
Banning the flights of the Belarus national carrier is an easy step to take, but we think it could only help the regime further seal off the isolated country.
Russia has used and abused “plausible denial”. We think the EU should update its “five principles” toward Russia. Since 2016, when they were first formulated, things only got from bad to worse. EURACTIV
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