European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the incident a “hijacking.”
The flight was en route to Lithuania from Greece when it was diverted, purportedly because of a bomb threat, though Belarusian media said President Alexander Lukashenko personally ordered the plane to land. Protasevich, a former editor for a media outlet that shared anti-government content, could face more than twelve years in prison; Belarus put him on a terrorist watch list (Reuters) for allegedly helping organize anti-Lukashenko protests in 2020. EU and U.S. officials said they will coordinate responses (State Dept.) on Belarus. Belarus’s foreign ministry defended the grounding of the plane, and Russia called the EU reaction “shocking.”
“Lukashenko must pay such a high price for this aggression that it will give pause to other tyrants and start to mend the tattered fabric of international law,” CFR’s Max Boot writes for the Washington Post.
“[This] confirms Belarus KGB active in EU. Past evidence of this, but more significant now with many dissidents & exiles abroad,” the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Nigel Gould-Davies tweets.
On The President’s Inbox podcast, CFR’s Stephen Sestanovich explains the 2020 Belarus protests.