One year ago, we published a seemingly innocuous story how a Belarusian Mig-29 diverted a RyanAir flight on its way to Lithuania to land in Minsk, the Belarusian capital. The centerpiece of the story was Roman Protasevich, unanimously characterized by the west as a “courageous dissident”, a journalist leading the political opposition against President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and his party. The narrative was set: President Lukashenko is suppressing political opposition, free speech and jailing journalists, a Soviet-era authoritarian dictator not unlike Vladimir Lenin or Joseph Stalin. That’s the back story behind Protasevich and this western described “hijacking“, an act of “air piracy“, of a commercial air flight.
Did anyone ever bother to ask why Lukashenko intercepted the RyanAir flight as it entered Belarusian airspace? That would seem like a reasonable question, a critically important one that speaks to the central issue, regardless of the reader’s politics or world view.
Update: Now, a year later with the Russian Special Military Operation in full swing in Ukraine, a mission whose stated goal is to “De Nazify” the country, what a year ago seemed to be an innocuous, one-off story about a theretofore unknown, obnoxious agitator, Roman Protasevich, takes on new significance. A suppressed and little-known detail was that Protasevich was a US-funded regime-change activist who served with and was trained by the Nazi Azov Brigade of the Ukrainian National Guard! The answer to the question posed above is now clear.