Roman Protasevich abduction – time for Britain to act?

The criminal hijacking of a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, with a Belarussian anti-government activist on board has led to calls from across Europe and beyond for firm action to be taken against the Belarus Government led by Alexander Lukashenko, whose agents advised the flight crew that there was a bomb onboard, and then seized Protasevich and his partner, Sofia Sapega, whilst the plane was on the ground in Minsk.

Layla Moran was quick to call upon Dominic Raab to respond;

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe, in advance of today’s European Council meeting, demanded;

  • The immediate release of Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend
  • Suspension of all EU flights over the Belarusian airspace
  • A ban on all Belavia (Belarus national airline) airplanes from landing in EU airports
  • Assertive and unified economic sanctions for the Belarusian government
  • Urgent investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization, including examining Russia’s role in the hijacking

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, joined the calls;

It should be noted that sanctions are already in place against sixty or so Belarusian officials, including President Lukashenko and his son, Victor.

The call for action is an urgent one for, whilst the offences he is charged with carry a sentence of up to fifteen years, Belarus still retains the death penalty, and does apply it.

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Day Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and a member of the Party’s Federal International Relations Committee.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and News.


  • Brad Barrows 24th May '21 - 6:39pm

    The harder the West decides to punish Belarus, the more pleased Russia will be as Belarus will be forced further in its grip. I expected Belarus to become a Federal Subject of the Russian Federation in the next few years anyway…if anything, tough Western sanctions will just speed the process.

  • @Adam – Yes, people have forgotten Edward Snowden and the lengths the US went to try and get their hands on him and how complicit many of those shouting now were…

  • John Marriott 25th May '21 - 9:15am

    What beats me is why Mr Protasevich took a plane that he must have known would be flying over Belarusian air space. He surely knew that he was being watched wherever he went. That’s the nature of these kind of regimes.

    I think that the response from the airline industry has made the best response and tend to agree with Brad Burrows as to the long term direction of travel of what has always, as far as I can recall not having resorted to Wikipedia, been a close ally if not indeed part of Mother Russia.

  • “The harder the West decides to punish Belarus, the more pleased Russia will be as Belarus will be forced further in its grip” And yet it didn’t seem to do Putin any harm when the West decided to do nothing meaningful in response when Russia annexed Crimea, when Russia sent military support to try to destabilize Ukraine, when Russia intervened militarily to prop up Assad’s near-genocidal regime in Syria, when Lukashenko with obvious Russian connivance ignored the election results in Belarus, when Russian-backed rebels shot down the airliner in Ukraine, and when our response to a clear act of Russian terrorism on British soil was largely confined to some diplomatic expulsions. I think there’s possibly a lesson there that, as long as the democratic countries of the West respond to aggression by always doing basically nothing (beyond some ineffective sanctions and words of condemnation), aggressors and dictators will become more and more emboldened 🙁

  • Charles Smith 25th May '21 - 2:14pm

    Western leaders are decrying the diversion of a plane to Belarus that ended with the arrest of an opposition journalist as an act of piracy and terrorism, as the European Union and others on Monday demanded an investigation into the dramatic forced landing of the Ryanair jet, which was travelling between two of the bloc’s member nations.

    The airline said Belarusian flight controllers told the crew there was a bomb threat against the plane as it was crossing through the country’s airspace and ordered it to land in the capital of Minsk. A Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to escort the plane.

    Raman Pratasevich, who ran a popular messaging app that played a key role in helping organize massive protests against Belarus’s authoritarian president, was on board and he and his Russian girlfriend were led off the plane shortly after landing. The plane, which began its journey in Athens, Greece, was eventually allowed to continue on to Vilnius, Lithuania.

  • Steve Trevethan 26th May '21 - 8:12am

    Might this affair present our party with a significant question?
    Do we oppose such behaviours irrespective of the government responsible or do we only oppose such behaviour when it is done by governments we oppose?

  • Alex Macfie 1st Jun '21 - 4:09pm

    John Marriott: All of us should be able to take for granted that we can fly between any two points on the globe without fear of arrest by the authorities of any country we happen to be passing over at 30000 feet. This is a fundamental principle of international aviation law, without which international passenger aviation would be all but impossible as no-one would be safe from any autocratic regime. By abducting Protasevich and his partner in mid-air, Belarus broke international law. If Belarus is prepared to do that, then it would have had no scruples about kidnapping him on British or EU soil. So he was in danger anyway.
    The moves demanded by the ALDE are entirely appropriate, as they would signal that breaking international law has consequences for a government. A soft approach would embolden other rogue states to attempt the same thing.

    Ian Sanderson: The other 3 passengers had final destinations in Belarus. Nothing sinister about that apparently.

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