The authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus sparked international outrage after his regime forced a commercial airline flying from Greece to Lithuania to land in its territory allegedly on the pretext of a bomb scare, so it could arrest a dissident journalist on board.
- The journalist, Roman Protasevich, is a prominent opponent of Lukashenko and had been living in exile in neighbouring Lithuania since fleeing his home country in 2019. Protasevich, 26, is the co-founder of the NEXTA media outlet on the social media platform Telegram.
- In November 2020, he was charged in Belarus with inciting public disorder and social hatred. The regime has also put his name on a list of terrorists, and if convicted, he could face the death penalty.
- Opposition leaders have denounced the incident as an act of terrorism by the state and infuriated Western leaders are discussing possible consequences for Belarus.
- Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe.
- It is bordered by Russia to the east and northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest.
- Minsk is the capital and largest city.
- In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in 1917, Byelorussian SSR became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. During the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence in 1991. In 2000, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty for greater cooperation, forming the Union State.
- It has shown no aspirations for joining the European Union.
- Alexander Lukashenko was elected Belarus’s first president in the country’s first and only free election post-independence, serving as president ever since.