Brussels — When Belarusian officials directed a Ryanair airliner to Minsk last month to arrest an opposition journalist on board, their goal was to silence nasty government critics and others like him. It may have been to send a message to someone else.
Instead, opposition leader Alexander Lukashenko believes that it was a panicked miscalculation that authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko energized the West against him.
“That was really a mistake,” Tsikhanouskaya said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The administration has never crossed this red line of interfering with the European region. This hijacking has affected all European leaders as their citizens were on this flight. I did. “
Belarusian officials responded to a May 23 detour of Ryanair, which had been traveling from Greece to Lithuania but was forced to land in Minsk, with the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada working together on Monday. And imposed sanctions on the organization. .. European officials who likened the diversion to aviation piracy also banned Belarusian airlines from EU skies and airports.
Lukashenko won the sixth presidential election in the August 9, 2020 election, which refused to admit that the EU was legal. The contested elections affected months of mass demonstrations in Belarus, including those that attracted as many as 200,000 people. Authorities there also took harsh action against protesters, and human rights officials said tens of thousands were detained and many were brutally beaten by security forces.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the EU countries had been thinking for months that it might still be possible to infer Lukashenko until the flight detour.
“I’m feeling different now,” said Landsbergis.
Tsikhanouskaya was a candidate for the election, hoping to oppose Lukashenko, but ran for her husband, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, a popular opposition person arrested in May 2020.
The day after the vote, Tsikhanouskaya was forced to flee the country to neighboring Lithuania. There, a 38-year-old political beginner went into exile with his children and worked to rally European nations against Lukashenko.
“The administration was so afraid of the Belarusian unity, the European Union and the United States about this situation in Belarus that they stopped thinking strategically. They began to think emotionally. “Tsikhanouskaya told AP.
On Thursday, her husband’s trial will begin in Gomel City for violating public order and morals, inciting hatred, and plotting a major uproar. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
“The trial is over. The trial is in prison, not in court. Lawyers don’t have the opportunity to tell us what’s going on,” said Tsikhanouskaya.
She expects it to last for a month or two and is not optimistic about the results.
“We understand that trials are not legal, honest, or fair. In fact, judges can write for years in prison,” she said.
For Tsikhanouskaya, it is yet another test of her ability as a coincidental politician, avoiding putting her own feelings towards her husband over the feelings of many Belarusians imprisoned for opposition to the government. ..
“He’s my beloved. I’m talking about him with my kids, so I think of him above all else. I find out where their dad is every day and how he is. I need to explain to them what they are feeling, “she said. “I assure them that he will be back soon.”
She said, “Your political obligation is to release them all, so you must separate all those emotions from your political obligations,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
“This is your personal pain. You can cry on your pillow in the evening. But what are those people doing, what is my husband doing? Imagine [in]— No light, no information, no normal living conditions. Of course, that’s terrible, “she said. “But again, it empowers me not to think or stop myself.”
Belarusian journalist Ramanplatasevic has been paraded on state television since being separated from Ryanair’s flight in Minsk, tearfully apologizing for his actions and praising Lukashenko.
His parents, opposition members, and others in the west believe that he spoke coerced, while others said he had signs of being beaten.
A friend of Platasevic says a 26-year-old journalist who left home in 2019 believed he had been spyed by Belarusian authorities before his arrest on May 23. This probably applies to many other Belarusian political activists, said Chikanoskaya, who, like Platasevic, flew Ryanair from Greece to Lithuania a week ago.
She feels “more or less safe” when she travels to Europe to raise awareness about Belarus.
“People on earth [in Belarus], They don’t have this protection of the law that the European Union has, “she said.
Beyond the immediate fate of Platasevic, her husband Siray, and others like them, a difficult time awaits for her country, Tsikhanouskaya said.
“This crisis is getting worse,” she said.
If Minsk officials really care about people, she added, “they will start dialogue with the Belarusians, release political prisoners, and resolve the crisis in a civilized way.” “Imagine a new election this fall. This is our goal.”