MEP Assita Kanko insists on strong measures following the aircraft hijacking by Belarus: “The time for playing is over”

24 May 2021
Assita Kanko

MEP Assita Kanko is outraged after Belarus forced an aircraft to land in Minsk to arrest a journalist. “If Belarus no longer guarantees international air traffic safety, then we must treat that country as such and exclude it as a partner in international air traffic. Michel must get the EU Member States at the European Council to agree on a very strong response.”

The facts are known: on 23 May 2021, a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius was diverted over Belarusian airspace to Minsk airport by the authorities, escorted by a military jet, because there was supposedly a security risk on board. After landing, Roman Protasevich, a critical blogger and opposition leader, was taken off the plane along with his girlfriend and arrested. The plane was searched, nothing was found and the plane was allowed to take off again, without Roman Protasevich and also without four other mysterious passengers of Russian nationality.

Far-reaching provocation

Assita Kanko refers to it as a far-reaching provocation. “This bears the signature of someone bent on escalation. Is it a coincidence that this is happening on the eve of the meeting of the Council of Europe with a strategic review of the relationship between the European Union and Russia on the agenda? The time for playing seems really over now; Belarus must be sanctioned. The European Council must respond firmly today.”

Since the rigged 2020 elections in Belarus with the “re-election” of Alexander Lukashenko as President and the subsequent crushed protests and persecution of opponents - with the murder of teacher Raman Bandarenka as a sad highlight -, the EU has imposed sanctions against many prominent figures of the regime, including President Lukashenko.

Recognisable (Russian) style

“Can we recognise the hand of Putin behind Lukashenko’s brutal action?”, Assita Kanko asks. “The style is recognisable, however: a flimsy official layer of a detected security risk that no one is supposed to believe, served with a smile. In the meantime, put the ruthless hand of the secret services to work and clearly show what opponents can expect. And cast ridicule upon the EU in a single movement.”

Protasevich’s arrest fits in perfectly

“These befriended autocratic regimes will stop at nothing; prosecute or kill opponents, poison them in EU countries if necessary, cover up the shooting down of civilian aircraft or blow up a Czech ammunition depot, etc. This cunning arrest of an opponent, who then risks the death penalty as well, fits in perfectly,” Assita Kanko adds.

Forceful response to air piracy

For MEP Assita Kanko, the credibility of the European Union is at stake. “It is time to go beyond our comfort zone of condemnation and sanctions that are apparently too weak. I am therefore calling on the European Council to respond appropriately and forcefully to this air piracy this evening. Support must also be sought from our allies worldwide. Michel must deliver tonight.”

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