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  • Ryan Wittler

What’s Going on in Belarus?

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What happened? On Sunday, authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko forced a Ryanair flight to land in the capital city of Minsk to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich. Protasevich, 26, is wanted in Belarus on charges stemming from his coverage of the country’s 2020 election. Protasevich worked for Poland-based news service NEXTA, which broadcast footage of mass protests against Lukashenko last year. Since “winning” the election, Lukashenko has cracked down on his opponents, many of whom, like Protasevich, have fled the country. The fallout: On Monday, The European Union sanctioned Belarus and banned its airlines from using E.U. airspace and airports, effectively severing the country’s main connections to Western Europe. It also barred all airlines based in the bloc from Belarusian airspace. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the forced landing and arrest a “shocking act,” and demanded Protasevich’s release. Late Monday, a video of Protasevich appearing to confess and make pro-government comments surfaced. His allies believe the confession and statements were forced. The E.U. and U.S. do not recognize Lukashenko as a legitimate leader, and have imposed sanctions on his regime.

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