State terrorism in Europe

What happened on Sunday on a Ryanair flight within the European Union ought to serve as a frigid shower for anyone who ventures into opposition or activist journalism. Ryanair was flying between the capitals of Greece and Lithuania on Sunday when it briefly passed through Belarusian airspace shortly before it was due to land in Vilnius. Under the false pretext of a bomb scare, the Belarusian authorities forced the Irish low-cost airline to the ground. No explosives were found, but an opposition journalist of Belarusian origins happened to be on board. The exiled journalist, Roman Protasevich, former editor of Nexta media and opponent of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, was on board the flight and was arrested by the authorities as soon as the plane was forced to land in Minsk.

Already in Athens, before boarding, he wrote to friends and colleagues that someone had followed him to the airport and had taken photographs before departing. It was not the first time he had noticed he was being followed. Earlier, Lukashenko’s men had issued a warrant for Protasevich’s arrest after the journalist and opposition activist took part in street protests against the dictator following last year’s rigged elections. Lukashenko lost the election but did not resign. The winner – Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya – is in exile and risks immediate arrest should she venture home.

If the European Union is unable to provide a united and forceful response – a response that goes beyond the usual verbal condemnation – then there will be far-reaching consequences for all those who engage in the public democratic discourse. There is no need to overthink this: the state-initiated hijacking of an aircraft by an authoritarian regime, in order to capture anyone, from anywhere, will be tolerated.

We do not know the fate of Roman Protasevich. He is somewhere in Minsk, presumably in a jail cell. After he was taken off the plane, not a word was heard of him. He faces up to 15 years in prison for organizing mass demonstrations against the dictator. Protasevich, however, was visibly frightened when it emerged that his Ryanair flight had been diverted and he suggested that he was going to be killed.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said on Sunday afternoon: “I call on the Belarusian authorities to release the detained passenger immediately and to fully guarantee his rights. EU leaders will discuss this unprecedented incident at the European Council tomorrow. The incident will not be without consequences.”

Given that Belarus is seen by the Budapest regime as an ally in many respects, to what extent would Hungary support strong EU action? A more realistic question may be this: what methods would the Orbán regime use to block or neutralize an effective EU response? If the Hungarian regime opts for sabotage, we already know that this time it cannot count on Polish collaboration.


  1. Avatar 2bits4free says:

    That poor brave young journalist. I hope that international pressure will save him.

  2. Avatar Pierre Divenyi says:

    IMHO, NATO should respond in a way that even Lukashenko will understand.

    • Avatar Christopher Adam says:

      I tend to agree. There’s also precedent for this in Europe, within the last two to three decades.

  3. Avatar Göllner András says:

    Congratulations to Dr. Adam for bringing to the attention of the readers of the Hungarian Free Press this latest act of state sponsored terrorism by a political friend of the Hungarian autocrat, Viktor Orbán.

    It’s doubtful if the EU will do more than issue a couple of “chitt chitts” to the perpetrators of this disgusting act of piracy that goes against the articles and charters of both the EU and the United Nations. (Orbán himself would not have lasted a decade in power without the financial largess of the EU and its blind eye to the systemic transgressions of its own treaty by the Hungarian autocracy.)

    The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by thugs in the employ of the Saudi ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, the murders committed by Putyin’s security services outside of the territory of Russia, the ability of the perpetrators of such acts to get away with murder is a dagger pointed at the heart of all those who are waging a desperate battle to keep the spirit of justice, freedom and human rights alive for us all. We must not forget the name of Mr. Roman Protasevich, and all those who are fighting for all of us world-wide. We must not let the criminals get away with murder, we must give them and their friends like Orbán no rest to plan their next act of aggression against those for whom human rights matters. The butchers of Belarus, the state-sponsored terrorists who stalk the defenders of human-rights, must not only be named and shamed, but braught to justice.

  4. Avatar Dr, FODOR ANDRÁS says:

    I am against the fascist Lukashenko and outraged what had happened. The only thing I do not understand why did you mention Orbán? It is disgusting from you Adam. Shame on you.

    You also a liar fasicst like Lukasenko.
    Orban and Hungary is FULLY UNNOCENT IN THIS AFFAIR. Shame on you. This was the last I red from you. You are seamless liar!

  5. Avatar Pierre Divenyi says:

    Dr. Fodor:
    Show me the picture of a head of a European country other than Orban shaking hands with Lukashenko. And I am impatiently waiting for the EU heads’ joint condemnation of Lukashenko’s unparalleled piracy act, to see if Orban joins the other 26.
    Maybe you should stop getting your information about what is happening in Hungary from the Fidesz-controlled press. Just a friendly advice from an older compatriot.

  6. Avatar György Lazar says:

    In June 2020 at arrival to Minsk, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hugged Lukashenko. Orbán called it an honor to be the first Hungarian prime minister to pay an official visit to Minsk. “We have owed this visit for a long time,” Orbán said, adding that he hoped Lukashenko, who last visited Budapest in 1994, would soon return the gesture.

    Lukashenko referred to Hungary as Belarus’s closest partner in the EU, a country which “understands us more than any other”. Orbán said that by visiting Minsk he had wanted to make it clear that Belarus could count on Hungary when it came to important political and economic matters.

    It was a lovefest…

  7. Avatar Péter Kakucska says:

    Thank you, Dr. Adam, for keeping your finger on the pulse of those European countries were true free democracy and freedom of speech are endangered.

    I am happy to read that the EU has been tough on their sanctions and though all the leaders have signed up to the sanctions, I wonder if Mr. Orbán was as enthusiastic in endorsing these sanctions as he was days earlier when he effectively blocked the union from issuing a united statement calling for the cessation of hostilities and the protection of civilians in Gaza. Ultimately in saving human lives.

    Even if he has, other European leaders have gone further than the joint sanctions and have shown true democratic leadership with Latvia taking down the Belarus flag from a sports event and having their ambassador expelled, with Germany’s Merkel speaking out against Minsk, Macron repeating his “Lukashenko has to go” call and Sweden still harbouring 2 Belarussians who are wanted for protesting against Lukaschenko.

    Orbán has not spoken out about the incident. It would seem embarrassing for Orbán for to now speak out endorsing the EU position on the new sanctions as he called on the EU to lift the Belarus sanctions on his visit to Minsk in June. Which ultimately damage his friendship with Lukashenko who publically called Orbán his friend.

    At least Orbán has other friends too that flirt with undemocratic ideology to those that imply more undemocratic processes or reverse democratic ones. From Vladmir Putin to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was among the first national leaders to congratulate Lukashenko in his rigged election win and to Donald Trump who is still fighting the results of a democratic election, Orbán is a complete embarrassment on the international stage and a danger domestically.

    Thank you for providing information and facts, so that we may have balanced and fair political discourse.

  8. Avatar Göllner András says:

    @ Fodor

    Three cheers for leaving this underpass.It’s the best decision you’ve made in a long time. Your absence should provide us with a bit of fresh air down here. Please don’t change your mind. On your way out, why don’t you leave that phony doctorate of yours in the waste basket next to your spelling mistakes and all the other garbage you managed to spread down here as part of your assignment on behalf of Orbanistan?

  9. Avatar Pityi Palkó says:

    @fodor – you slimy vermin – you !

  10. Avatar Göllner András says:

    @ Pityi Palko

    Was that really necessary ? You remind me of that encounter between the pot and the kettle and an excellent piece by a couple of young scholars on neutrolling.

  11. Avatar Pityi Palkó says:

    @Göllner András – yes, it was REALLY necessary.

    I simply reacted to Dr, FODOR ANDRÁS on May 23, 2021 at 10:55 pm comment of – ‘It is disgusting from you Adam. Shame on you. …You are seamless liar!’ – where Fodor intentionally humiliate C. Adams online!

    I suggest for you Göllner András to try to give up your general control freak attitude and accept, that others are too capable of handling matters properly.

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