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Clara Ferreira Marques

Belarus Throws Down the Gauntlet to the West

Sunday’s unprecedented forced landing of a Ryanair flight, allowing a journalist on board to be arrested, demands an uncompromising response.

Unscheduled stop.

Unscheduled stop.

Photographer: AFP

Even by the standards of Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, effectively hijacking a flight between two European Union capitals in order to arrest an opposition journalist is an act of unbridled recklessness.

Many details are still murky, including what role — if any — Russia played. One conclusion is, however, already clear: Seizing a dissident out of the sky, in violation of international air travel rules, could create a precedent for far larger authoritarian states to follow, including China. Expressions of concern from Europe and other Western states won’t suffice.