Lukashenko’s regime took up a disdain for democracy and for the rights of its citizens and has now finally resorted to international terrorism. If Europeans cannot feel safe while travelling, then Lukashenko and his collaborators cannot feel unpunishable. The hijacking of Ryanair’s plane is an act of terrorism and it cannot be countered by another message of ‘concern’ and symbolic sanctions. These have so far obviously left the Belarussian dictator unconcerned.
The leaders of the European Union are today discussing how they should respond to this violation of international law by the Belarussian government. Are we in for another impotent rebuke or something substantial? It takes more than travel bans and freezing of these criminals’ European assets to intimidate and penalize them. We must target the flow of cash of Lukashenko and his associates – therefore, sanctions must be enacted on Belarussian enterprises that are connected to these persons. This brazen clique is out only for power and money which means we must strike them where it hurts them the most. Their wallets.
Among other things, we must not let Russia’s possible part in this crime go unnoticed and investigate the probable involvement of Russian agents. In addition to Raman Protasevich and his partner another three Russian citizens did not continue their flight to Vilnius from Minsk. This obviously raises questions about Russia’s involvement, but this should not come as much of a surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, not one involved party cannot consider themselves unpunishable. Especially not Russia, whose covert involvement in different events both in Europe and in its border areas is becoming ever more apparent.
Now that Belarus has sharply violated international law and jeopardized the sense of security of the Europeans, it is prime time that we resorted to having a spine instead of turning the other cheek. Substantive, not symbolic sanctions are needed – sanctions enacted on the source of revenue for Lukashenko and his collaborators, a no-fly zone above Belarus, boycott of the Belarussian national carrier Belavia, suspension of all transit of goods through Belarus; Lukashenko’s regime must be considered as a pariah, and of course we must demand the immediate release of the abducted passengers. Dictators must be dealt with decisively as it is the only language they understand.
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 178 Members from all EU Member States