Why Lukashenko keeps getting away with it

The diversion of a Ryanair flight bound for Lithuania from Athens and the arrest of passenger Roman Protasevich – an influential Belarusian blogger critical of the country’s dictatorial regime – is the latest tyrannical action to lead to expressions of grave concern and tempered outrage from the West. However, the fact that the passenger aircraft was forced to land by a Belarusian fighter jet on the pretence that the plane was carrying explosives is, arguably, a step up on the ladder of severity. Police brutality and the unlawful detention of opposition activists are quick to cause Western condemnation, but those still solely concern domestic matters – the interception of a

James Forsyth

Britain is right to punish Belarus for its plane hijacking

Belarus forcing down a civilian airliner flying between two EU, and Nato, capitals is a grave threat to the international order. If any flight crossing the airspace of an autocratic regime is vulnerable to such an attack, the world begins to look a very different ­– and more dangerous – place. The challenge to the free world now is to hit Minsk with such a set of punishments that it doesn’t dare repeat its action and that no other autocratic country tries to pull the same trick. Dominic Raab has just announced in the Commons that Belavia, the Belarusian national carrier, has had its operating license suspended, meanings its flights

What does Belarus’s opposition leader want?

There is an assumption that those fighting tyranny must instead want Western-style democracy, that the arc of history bends towards liberal representative government, allied inevitably to Washington and Brussels. Many former Soviet Union countries saw their politburos overthrown by young middle-class people espousing the desire for this kind of politics — from the Rose Revolution in Georgia to the Orange Revolution and Euromaiden protests in Ukraine (whether or not they eventually received that form of government is a different matter). But there is no logical imperative that connects dissatisfaction towards an autocrat with the kind of government and geopolitical order that will replace him, whether in Eastern Europe or elsewhere. Belarus,

The West doesn’t know best

I’d always rather liked the Finns, until I came across the conductor Dalia Stasevska. When I asked my mother what they were like, back when I was five or six and enjoyed staring at a globe of the world, she described them as ‘drunken and stupid, but very brave’. This was, by Mother’s standards, an extremely kindly benediction. Most of her descriptions of the world’s various people did not contain commendations. There were a few exceptions — Trinidadians were ‘drunken and stupid, but very cheerful’, for example. But by and large, to her the world comprised people who were drunken and stupid, apart from the Muslim world, where people were

Portrait of the week: Employment falls, exam failures and a roundabout rigmarole

Home In fine weather with calm seas, 565 migrants in four days crossed the Channel in small craft. French officials said that 33 migrants in two boats that got into difficulty had been returned to Calais. In July more than 1,000 migrants crossed the Channel. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, appointed Dan O’Mahoney as Britain’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, tasked with somehow making such voyages ‘unviable’. Employment fell by 220,000 in the three months to June, the biggest quarterly fall since 2009, but unemployment remained at about 3.9 per cent, as millions stayed on the furlough scheme. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 9 August, total deaths from Covid-19

Is this the end for Europe’s last dictator?

Alexander Lukashenko, labelled by the Bush administration as ‘Europe’s last dictator’, was never going to go down without a fight. In his final public address before Belarus went to the polls he offered a thinly veiled warning to those who wish to remove him from power: ‘[Our Belarus] is rather naive and a little bit fragile but she is beloved and when you love something you do not give it up.’ On election day, Lukashenko delivered on his grim campaign promise. Official exit polls gave the incumbent an implausible 80 per cent of the vote: his fifth landslide in 26 years at the helm. The lion’s share of presumed electoral