The Wider World

Belarus hit for mid-air arrest

BELARUS President Alexander Lukashenko (Wikipedia).

Most Americans think that a “White Russian” is a drink made with vodka and a coffee and crème liqueur. It’s also a traditional and archaic term for the people of what’s now called Belarus, a nation that is in the headlines today because of the unusual way its government arrested a journalist critical of its authoritarian ruler.

On Sunday, that nation – nestled between Poland and Russia – deployed a fighter jet to compel a passenger jetliner to land. The Ryanair flight was forced down when it was en route from Greece to Lithuania. The purpose of the mid-air “traffic stop” was to take into custody Raman Pratasevich, a writer who has been critical of President Alexander Lukashenko, chief of state since 2004.

“We won’t tolerate that one can try to play Russian roulette with the lives of innocent civilians,” said Charles Michel, chief of the European Union Council. According to the Associated Press, the EU is urging all EU-based airlines to skip flying over Belarus and deny access to their airports to flights by planes from Belarus.

“White Russia,” also known as Byelorussia, was part of the Soviet Union. When that Communist empire dissolved in 1991, Belarus became independent but still maintains close ties with what’s now the Russian Federation.

Lukashenko, who came to power in a disputed election in 2004, is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.



Leave a Reply