SubscribeSign in
The Authoritarian Assault on Exiles
Belarus’s Skyjacking Reflects a Global Threat That Democracies Must Confront
By
Nate Schenkkan

May 27, 2021
Protesting the detention of Roman Protasevich in Warsaw, Poland, May 2021
Dawid Zuchowicz / Agencja Gazeta / Reuters
On Sunday, May 23, Belarus shocked the world by dispatching a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania to change course and land instead in Minsk, where authorities then arrested two passengers: Raman Pratasevich, a 26-year-old exiled Belarusian journalist, and his girlfriend, Sofya Sapega. Pratasevich faces criminal charges for allegedly organizing “mass disturbances” via Telegram, an instant-messaging platform; Sapega has been charged with unspecified offenses. The European Union has called for an investigation and for adding to the EU sanctions that the government of Belarus’s authoritarian ruler, Alexander Lukashenko, already faces. The United States seems likely to follow suit.
On Monday, Belarusian authorities distributed a 30-second video of Pratasevich nervously asserting that he had been treated well in custody and that he was cooperating with the investigation into his activities; a video of Sapega followed on Tuesday. Yet given the Belarusian government’s history of torturing prisoners and forcing them to release such statements, it was difficult to put much stock in these reassurances.
Lukashenko’s methods were novel; state-sponsored hijackings are rare. But Pratasevich’s arrest represents just the most recent example of a trend toward transnational repression, as authoritarian regimes increasingly seek
Finish reading this article for free.
Enter your email and we'll send a paywall-free link directly to your inbox.
In addition to your unlocked article, you will receive our flagship weekly newsletter Foreign Affairs This Week, as well as occasional updates and offers from Foreign Affairs. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, visit our user agreement and privacy policy.
Get unlimited access to all Foreign Affairs. Subscribe now.
Are you already a subscriber? Sign in.
NATE SCHENKKAN is Director of Research Strategy at Freedom House.
MORE BY NATE SCHENKKAN
More:Belarus Law & Institutions Criminal LawHuman Rights Politics & Society
Recommended Articles
Don’t Put Belarus in the Middle
The West Needs to Balance the Interests of Moscow and Minsk
Yauheni Preiherman and Thomas Graham
How Illiberal Leaders Attack Civil Society
What's Happening in Central Europe Is Part of a Larger Trend
Michael Abramowitz and Nate Schenkkan
GET THE MAGAZINE
Save up to 55%
on Foreign Affairs magazine!
Subscribe
FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Weekly Newsletter
Get in-depth analysis delivered right to your inbox
ABOUT
CONTACT
SUBSCRIPTION
FOLLOW
GRADUATE SCHOOL FORUM
From the
publishers of
Foreign Affairs
The Most:
RecentSharedViewed
Nnamdi Kanu’s Trial Turns Up Pressure on Nigerian Government
Spotlight on Japan Fall 2020
by Author:Sheila A. Smith
Maybe Tunisians Never Wanted Democracy
by Steven A. Cook
Published by the Council on Foreign Relations
Privacy Policy Terms of Use
©2021 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.
Subscribe for unrestricted access.
Explore Current Issue Archive Books & Reviews Anthologies Newsletters Search Subscribe