The bungled diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978 carrying the anti-Lukashenko activist Roman Protasevich heralds a new attempt to engineer a colour revolution in the Eastern European State and one which we ought be scathing of. As we all know by now, on Sunday last a flight from Athens to Villinus was diverted, under the auspices of a manufactured bomb threat, to Minsk airport and the waiting arms of Belarussian security forces.
On board was the 26 year old Roman Protasevich, operator of the Nexta Telegram channel which came to fame during the attempted heave against the incumbent government in Belarus last summer. As a consequence of his campaigning and allegations of organising a riot, Protasevich earned himself a place alongside other activists on the Belarussian terror list.
A photographer and journalist for a variety of anti-Lukashenko media outlets including the notoriously CIA sponsored Radio Free Europe, some have called into question Protasevich’s ties to neofascist groups in the region including the Azov Battalion. At the time of writing, Protasevich has appeared on camera affirming that he has been properly treated by authorities though many opposition figures have alleged the use of torture owing to very clear physical marks.
As it was an Irish carrier plane that was downed by Belarussian authorities the Irish government have been some of the most vocal critics of the actions by Minsk. Previously the Irish government has matched words with actions on Belarus such as in January when this publication delved into the €50,000 earmarked by the Department of Foreign Affairs for anti-Lukashenko campaigning.
Since Sunday night the entire Western establishment, from Washington to Brussels through their pawns in the human rights industry, have issued stern proclamations against the Lukashenko government with sanctions already instigated. While prima facie a humanitarian stand against a rogue regime, veteran cynics can only see these moves as part of a preordained putsch against the current government.
For sure the graceless actions by Minsk merit condemnation and hint at the mafiosa nature of their security state. However both the Irish and EU government are happy to turn a blind eye to human rights violations when it comes to their own backgardens, whether it be the heroin republics in the Balkans or Turkic despotism in the near East.
Even in Ireland when the PSNI unlawfully arrested the journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in 2018 for their trojan work documenting state sponsored murder in the 6 counties, there was a noticeable silence form the mandarins in the Deparment of Foreign Affairs.
The Irish government was more than willing to hijack a plane when politically expedient as the fiasco over the Frank Stagg funeral showed, with the past 14 months of covid policing and tacit use of State media outlets to harass protestors, illustrating how our native regime is happy to become authoritarian if required.
To be clear this is in no way an apologia for the Belarussian government. While I look favourably on some of Lukashenko’s worldview and his role in preventing the pillaging of Belarus during the post-Soviet 1990s, if I was a Belarussian citizen I’d very likely find myself on the protest line.
While Lukashenko has only earned the wrath of Western governments and intelligence agencies solely for cynical geopolitical reasons his regime is nothing short of a thinly veiled mafia. However it is against even this mafia the West has lost any authority to lord over morally.
For starters the previous year has shown that even nominal liberal states have the capacity and willingness to clamp down on protests with the same amount of prejudice as your average semi-Stalinist tyrant.
Having witnessed praying Catholics being loaded into Garda squad cars outside RTÉ during an attempted protest last January, or the effective militarisation of our capital to prevent St Patrick’s Day anti-lockdown demonstrations, I think twice on any comparisons between us and so called authoritarian regimes. This condemnation towards also has to be contextualised with the Irish state’s plans for harsh hate speech laws and siren calls to augment the levels of censorship by tech platforms.
Imagine if you will the reaction from our state and NGO sector to a foreign funded Telegram journalist with paramilitary links plotting with the open connivance of outside powers against the State. Certainly American citizens who contested the results of their own elections in January in the same manner as Belarussians praised by the US State Department now face long term prison sentences by a politicalised FBI.
In many respects Belarussians have enjoyed better rights to free assembly than Irish citizens the past year, and may continue to do so should our government attain an extension of emergency powers. This is not a compliment to Belarus but indicative of how low our star has fallen on civil liberties.
As an Irishman I take serious exception to the fact an Irish company’s plane was forced to land under false pretences and be raided by KGB agents. However we all know the routine by now of how neoliberal carpetbaggers find a wedge issue in a sovereign nation and orchestrate an inorganic human rights revolt.
We have no interest in seeing the toppling of Lukashenko and another geopolitical space on the board being opened against Russia for NATO. Mr Protasevich deserves perhaps our sympathy but not our support.