Russia Should Not Escape Complicity in Ryanair Hijacking

While EU sanctions against Belarusian officials are welcome, Russia's role should not be ignored by Brussels, argues Ilya Zaslavskiy. But targeting Kremlin cronies, rather than the Russian people, would be much fairer and far cheaper than putting an extra NATO brigade in Eastern Europe.

While President Aleksandar Lukashenko's primary role in the extraordinary act of "air piracy" which took place over the skies of Belarus this week is clear, President Vladimir Putin should not escape scrutiny from the West.

The UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the British Parliament not long after the hijacking that it was "very difficult to believe that this kind of action could have been taken without at least the acquiescence of the authorities in Moscow".

There is also the matter of the four Russian nationals on the plane. One was the girlfriend of the detained dissident, Roman Protasevich. The other three left the plane at Minsk too, but never returned.

Nobody yet knows who these Russians were. There is speculation that these were Russian agents taking part directly in the operation, a rapidly spreading theory that Russian disinformation efforts are trying to discredit.

At the very least, we know that President Putin approved of the hijacking because his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, described the fake bomb scare, forced landing, kidnapping and illegal arrest, as "an absolutely reasonable approach".

While EU sanctions against Belarussian officials are welcome, Russia's role should not be ignored by Brussels.

Having studied the Kremlin for nearly two decades, and personally experienced how devious Putin's agents can be, I believe that a short sharp jab to those closest to Putin would be the most effective way for...

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