In Russia – where state media described last year’s uprising against Mr Lukashenko as a Western plot – the arrest met with approval from Mr Putin’s supporters. Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the pro-Kremlin RT television network, written on twitter that Mr Lukashenko “played it wonderfully”. And Vyacheslav Lysakov, a deputy allied to Mr Putin, described The arrest of Mr. Protasevich as a “brilliant special operation”.
Belarusian authorities mentionned they had ordered the plane to land after receiving information about a bomb threat, although Vilnius, the plane’s destination, was much closer than Minsk when the airliner turned around , according to flight tracking data. The country’s defense ministry said in another statement that the country’s air defense forces were on high alert.
Lukashenko and his government are notorious for using tricks to prosecute their political opponents.
Mr Protasevich’s arrest comes months after the biggest wave of street protests in Belarusian history failed to remove Lukashenko, who has been the country’s authoritarian ruler for more than 26 years.
More than 32,000 protesters were arrested and at least four died during the protests. Hundreds of people have been brutally beaten by the police. NEXTA has become the main online point of sale coordinating events.
Supported by Mr Putin and using extraordinary violence, Mr Lukashenko successfully repressed the protesters, with the country’s security apparatus remaining loyal to him.
Ms Tikhanovskaya, Mr Lukashenko’s main opponent in the last presidential election in August, widely regarded as rigged, described the episode with the Ryanair flight as “a special services operation aimed at hijacking a plane in order to detain the activist and blogger Roman Protasevich. “
“Not a single person flying over Belarus can be sure of their safety,” she said.
Airline industry watchers have predicted a strong response from commercial airlines. “What’s unprecedented about this incident is that it was state sponsored,” said Kevin Murphy, analyst at Morgan Stanley.