This is piracy. When the Belarusian president organizes the hijacking of an international flight passing through is airspace with the sole purpose of imprisoning a journalist who was on board, this is pure and simple state piracy.
On Sunday, Mr Lukashenko didn’t give a damn about any international legality and the first lesson to be learned from this crime is that he is not only a dictator. A lawless and faithless man, and he is also a moron because the mass demonstrations had stopped in Minsk. The opposition was looking for ways to rebound and had not yet found them. The West, frankly, was finally resigned to the fate of Belarus. The dictator had failed to regain popularity, but was in the process of breaking down the protest over his rigged re-election last summer, and what did he do?
He is causing the United States and the European Union to mobilise against him, putting Vladimir Putin, his only supporter, on an uneasy footing and reawakening a crisis that he thought he had contained. With an appalling blindness and a single bullet, Mr Lukashenko shot himself four times in the foot because the European Union could not remain passive because this Ryanair flight was connecting Athens and Vilnius and because Roman Protasevich, the opponent he was so keen to gag, was based in Warsaw where he had found refuge.
Three of the 27 capitals of the Union were directly challenged by this affair. The whole of the Union was challenged and the United States could not but react strongly because, unlike his predecessor, Joe Biden has no connivance with dictatorships.
As for Vladimir Putin, his protégé’s initiative does not make it any easier for him to prepare his next summit meeting with the American president. He has high expectations from this event. He wants Russia and the world to see Joe Biden treating him as an equal. He would like to come away from these conversations with a first step towards defining a new peaceful coexistence between Washington and Moscow. This meeting is so essential for him that one wonders if his recent gesticulations on the borders of Ukraine were not aimed at imposing it on the White House, and now this Lukashenko has decided to complicate everything with the sole objective of getting his hands on one opponent, just one.
So, no, imbecility does not explain everything. Panic must also be added, because this dictator is obviously not unaware that his economy is going down the drain, that social discontent is increasing the political rejection of which he is a victim and that the Kremlin is still looking for the man it could replace him so that everything changes without anything changing.
In such a climate, a journalist as well-informed, as widely read and as influential as Roman Protasevitch obviously becomes an adversary to be put down and this is what led Alexander Lukashenko to forget all caution and do no matter what – just as Vladimir Putin did with Alexei Navalny, whom he managed to turn into a national figure, or Xi Jinping with the European Parliament, whom he managed to turn against him in the belief that he would intimidate his elected representatives. The weakness of dictators is that they always believe in the power of fear.