Belarus – Putin ‘exploiting Roman Protasevich arrest to wage new battle against the West after Ryanair hijack’

VLADIMIR Putin is exploiting activist Roman Protasevich’s arrest to wage a new battle against the West, a Tory MP has claimed.

Today the European Union agreed to impose sanctions against Belarus after forcing the diversion of a Ryanair plane to arrest the opposition journalist.

BBC
Tory MP Bob Seely said that supporting the Russian backed country would ‘play into Putin’s arms.’[/caption]
Reuters
The Tory MP claims that Putin (R) is using Roman Protasevich’s arrest to wage a war against the West. Pictured: Putin with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko[/caption]
AFP
Roman Protasevich appeared on state TV on Monday saying he is in good health and acknowledging having played a role in organising mass disturbances last year.[/caption]

EU leaders called it a brazen “hijacking” of the plane flying from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he would also consider implementing further sanctions against President Lukashenko’s administration saying that the regime must be “held to account for such reckless and dangerous behaviour.”

When asked on BBC Newsnight whether Britain should back the Belarusian opposition, Bob Seely said that supporting the Russian backed country would “play into Putin’s arms.”

“Lukashenko and Minsk is the new frontline against Putin’s battle against the West,” he said.

“The problem is that because Putin has clearly been so aggressive, especially over Ukraine, we have treaded incredibly carefully.”

The Tory MP added that the protests that are held in support of Protasevich are giving fuel to the Russian conspiracies that speculate they are a “Western form of warfare to hurt and destroy mother Russia.”

“It seems like we have given the Belarusian democrat forces very, very little support because to do so would play into Putin’s arms,” he said.

Reuters
The Ryanair aircraft that was carrying the activist that was diverted to Belarus[/caption]
People rally in support of Roman Protasevich, in Ukraineon  May 23, 2021
People rally in support of Roman Protasevich, in Ukraine on May 23

“Putin will then turn around and say ‘There! I told you the West is backing these fascists. These are just like the Kyiv puppets of the USA, etc…’.”

Yesterday a dissident Russian journalist warned that both Russia and China could use the same tactics to arrest their opponents if the West allows Lukashenko to go unpunished for his actions.

Fedor Krasheninnikov, a Kremlin critic in Lithuania told the Metro that “nobody can feel safe”.

“Putin is closely following the reaction of Western countries,” Krasheninnikov said.

“If he sees that the crimes of other dictators go unpunished, he acts even more aggressively.

“All dictators on the planet learn from each other. If this terrorist act by Lukashenka goes unpunished, Putin will also intercept the planes of his political opponents.

“And not only Putin, but also Xi Jinping and all the others.”

Today Putin’s press secretary confirmed that a meeting between the Kremlin leader and Lukashenko is being arranged for the end of May.

“The meeting is really planned for the end of the month, we will inform you when and where it will take place,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters today.

“It was planned and prepared even before the Sunday events.”

The 26-year-old Protasevich was detained when the Ryanair jet was forced to land in Minsk on Sunday.

Upon leaving the plane on Sunday, passengers on the flight said that Protasevich told them he feared he would face the death penalty.

Belarus is the only country in Europe that executes prisoners.

Tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin said he respected Lukashenko for forcing a plane to land in a bid to arrest the opposition journalist.

“Glory, glory to Lukashenko,” Prigozhin said. “I respect, bow and support [him] with all my heart. 

“A great man who stopped the scum, and didn’t let them **** into his face.”

“One more law needs to be urgently added to all the Belarussian laws – to shoot Protasevich like a dog. 

“Respect one more time, Aleksander Grigoryevich [Lukashenko].”

AFP
The Ryanair flight was forced to touch down after taking off from Athens[/caption]
Rex
The 26-year-old is accused of participating in an unsanctioned protest[/caption]

Prigozhin, 59, nicknamed “Putin’s Chef”, is a catering magnate who rose to fame running Kremlin banquets and is now behind a notorious private army of mercenaries fighting in Africa. 

He is also wanted by the FBI for his suspected involvement in the hacking of the 2016 US election.

On Monday Protasevich appeared on state TV saying he is in good health and acknowledging having played a role in organising mass disturbances last year.

He said on Monday: “I am in Detention Centre No1 in Minsk. I can say that I have no health problems, including with my heart or any other organs.

“The attitude of employees towards me is as correct as possible and according to the law. I continue cooperating with investigators and am confessing to having organised mass unrest in the city of Minsk.”

The comments were immediately dismissed by his allies as made under duress, adding that he was almost certainly being tortured.

“This is how Raman looks under physical and moral pressure. I demand the immediate release of Raman and all political prisoners,” a leader of Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, wrote on Twitter.

He also appears to have a small black spot on his forehead.

Belarusian President Lukashenko, 66, has faced the biggest challenge of his nearly 27-year-old rule from protesters who took to the streets after he was declared the winner of an election last year they said was rigged.

About 35,000 people have been detained since the start of regular demonstrations in August 2020.

Lukashenko denies electoral fraud and has accused the West of sponsoring the protests.



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