Pratasevic Defeated Belarus’s Lukashenko with Forced Video Confession. The EU Must Be Much Stronger
One of the most bizarre, mind-boggling acts of politically motivated violence by a dictatorship that humanity has even seen occurred on May 23, 2021.
On that day, the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko scrambled a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet and touted a fake bomb threat to force down an international passenger plane passing over the country’s territory in order to arrest 26-year-old anti-regime journalist Raman Pratasevic (Roman Protasevich).
Pratasevic, a former of chief editor of a Telegram app-based media, Nexta, had been living in exile in Lithuania since 2019 precisely in order to avoid what has now happened to him after the forced landing. Namely, to avoid being captured, tortured, and possibly murdered for his political views and his outspoken opposition to the regime of Alexander Lukanshenko. A regime which is a staunch post-communist dictatorship in Belarus, the most lively living and breathing remnant from the still decaying monstrous corpse of the former Soviet Union.
It has long ago become a cliché that Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus is the “last dictator in Europe”.
That cliché used to be true. Unfortunately, though, it hasn’t been true for a while: not because the “dictator” part is now wrong but because the “last … in Europe” part is now wrong:
Way too many real or wannabe dictators of varied levels of brutality, skill, ambition, and perplexibility have risen on the European continent in the past 15 years or so. Not to mention in Europe’s neighborhood.
This development is very much the fault of the Old West. That same West which could have – but hasn’t – carried out tangible full-force de-communization of Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War, which should’ve been modeled after the de-Nazification after World War II. That same West which grew carelessly complacent and needlessly, shortsightedly triumphant in the 1990s and early 2000s, giving all kinds of nasty post-communist political types the time and opportunity to regroup and go on the offensive.
By now it is a fait accompli that the rank of Belarus’s Lukanshenko has been joined by a growing cohort of like-minded, spittle-emitting types not just in Europe but also in the vast expanse of Afro-Eurasia – both in regions once really hopeful for proper human dignity, decency, and democracy, and in regions which weren’t going anywhere anyway, having been forgotten by God and the post-Cold War West.
(As a sidenote, it’s little wonder there’s been a global backsliding from democracy among the more “wretched of the Earth” considering how even the West proper has been going down the hell road since the perfidious advent of the anti-social media has led to wide-ranging online mob violence known as “cancel culture”, which is capable of striking down any voice dissenting from a its own cherished mainstream, in utter violation of freedom of speech, freedom of thought, the Enlightenment principles, real liberal democracy, and basic human decency.)
Nonetheless, regardless of how many Lukashenkos have sprung up across Europe and its vicinity in the past 15 years or so, the good old moustache original from Minsk has proven that he is still in a league of his own. With the actual mid-air “hijacking”, as the CEO of the affected airline Ryanair has called it, of a civilian passenger flight from Greece to Lithuania in order to arrest Pratasevic, the neo-Soviet ruler Lukashenko has proven that he still got it.
Lukanshenko managed to surprise the world by doing something nobody had ever done: apparently committing the most severe violation of the 1944 Chicago Convention, i.e. the Convention on International Civilian Aviation on international air travel.
Breaking a major norm of the international peaceful movement order and risking the wrath of the international community, not to mention major economic loses to a regime with highly questionable economic efficiency – and all of that in order to catch a youngster posting articles, photos, and hashtags online. Pratasevic must be really scary: apparently the leadership in Minsk thinks scrambling the pride of Soviet Cold War avionics and stirring a major international scandal is worth it in order to catch a single young man.
Lukashenko and his regime aren’t wrong, for sure. A great minority of humans always struggles for actual, real freedom. And when that minority manages to sway and lead the traditionally passive plurality, dictators and their lackeys get in a lot of trouble. If anything, Pratasevic is the epitome of a good example of how social media and the Internet were supposed to work all of the time in order to boost real freedom and real democracy all around the globe. (Of course, the problem is, as mentioned above, that they work this way only here and there, and only part of the time, and have been severely weaponized by all kinds of enemies of freedom and democracy – from non-Western dictators overjoyed to discover new options to stifle decent and assault the Free World, to home-grown Western Marxists taking joy in serving as self-appointed though police of the 1984-Big-Brother-would-be-proud type.)
So even before the complex evil plot to catch him as he was flying over his native country, Pratasevic, who has been fighting Lukashenko’s regime since his early mid-teens, had already become a mighty historical figure in his own right. Sure, his furious Telegram posts against Lukashenko and the regime in Minsk have been laden with insults towards the post-communist President of Belarus but anybody who’s lived even a little bit under a criminal Marxism-communism dictatorship and/or its criminal post-communist legacy could very well understand why that is.
The big scary Lukashenko must have been really frightened by an apparently bigger and scarier 26-year-old blogger in order to do what he did.
Once the egregious act of bringing down a passenger plane in order to arrest a self-made freedom-loving journalist was completed, the Lukashenko regime kept going further. In a classic chapter from the dictatorship/Marxism-communism/1984 playbook, the regime released a video of Pratasevic making a confession of organizing unrest and sedition in his native country of Belarus.
The Pratasevic video was so obviously forced, most likely recorded by force and after torture, with the young journalist reading from a note handed to him, that it is ridiculous the regime in Minsk would think it would be productive for it in any way. US President Joe Biden was quick to aptly remark that the video confession was made “under duress”, while Raman Pratasevic’s father went into detail explaining exactly what appeared to be wrong with his son, and what he must have been subjected to. Then there was another seemingly forced confession video of Pratasevic’s Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, which was just as ridiculous.
One can only guess to what extent Lukashenko and his regime thought anybody around the world, and even anybody in an encapsulated Belarus – whose citizens still surprisingly managed to rebel for months in 2020 – would believe the staged video confessions. But that is how dictatorships operate: even democratic leaders aren’t immune from losing touch with reality, and with dictatorships that’s probably mandatory.
Pratasevic was most likely tortured immediately after his arrest. That will certainly be revealed at a later point, at some point. He faces a death penalty as the regime is at liberty to label him a “terrorist” or whatever else its regime imagination may come up with.
After that initial crackdown that the courageous young journalist was subjected to, he was given a choice – cooperate and record that ridiculous video confession, or face further torture and possibly an early death.
Pratasevic clearly made the right call by choosing to read and say whatever they wanted him to. Although anything he might have suffered and/or is suffering at the hands of his captors anyway would have/is making him a hero, there would have been no need for him to become a human wreck or to find an early grave to prove a point. That point has already been proven, and the Lukashenko regime has quickly and decisively defeated itself with the cowardly act of bringing down a passenger plane to arrest a blogger – no matter how long it might continue to linger on.
Marxist-communist dictatorships, or any Modern-Era dictatorships for that matter, love forcing fake confessions. In a 1984-type, 1930s-Stalinist-purge-type style, they love crushing the free spirit’s sole. Hopefully, the confession under duress would spare Pratasevic from the worst, regardless of how many years he might be left to rot in jail as one of the world’s most important political prisoners now.
Keep in mind that Pratasevic is as high-profile a freedom and democracy activist as it gets, of the real kind. And as the video confession under duress shows, that status is no insurance that could save him from the worst.
I like to tell time and again the story of this small-town poet in rural communist-era Bulgaria who was battered into minced meat for three full days in a local police department for some barely “politically incorrect” limerick (“politically incorrect” to the respective ruling communist regime at the time, that is). After local cop criminals crushed both his body and soul in just three days, that young men, who could’ve been a Nobel Literature laureate, was then released, and literally spent the next several decades roaming the streets of the small town, talking to himself, with groups of children routinely ridiculing and harassing him as a nut job. And that was just one of the countless low-profile cases of regime torture destroying a human fate throughout Eastern Europe under Marxism-communism.
With his forced video confession, as with all of his freedom activism so far, young Pratasevic has defeated Lukashenko completely, unconditionally, and irreversibly for the sake of freedom, dignity, morals, and decency.
Even if he happens to somehow die or lose his mind in prison (he was seemingly forced to read that he was fully healthy and treated very well by the officers of the Belarus regime), the ultimate victory is his and always will be. It was going to him anyway but now Soviet-fighter-jet-scrambling Lukashenko has just handed it to him before the eyes of the entire world. That will never change. Even if the Lukashenko regime survives for millennia or the West implodes, collapses, fails in disgrace, even if freedom is wiped off the face of the earth, and humanity descends in eternal horror, nothing will change what just happened here and now.
It hasn’t been that Pratasevic’s literally mid-air arrest would just prove counterproductive for Lukashenko. It’s just that Pratasevic utterly defeated Lukashenko, this time fully thanks to the latter, once and for all.
The European Union and its member states have reacted with some force and with some dignity to the “hijacking” of a passenger airplane to arrest an exiled journalist. Sure, most, if not all, of the measures, are symbolic, but to be honest, I expected less, and was somewhat pleasantly surprised: getting outraged by some real act of evil against a real, courageous worthy individual shows a great potential for greater integrity. (As opposed to getting agitated over highly controversial identity and historical revanchism theories).
Except the West, and the European Union, and the EU society, the sum of the societies of the EU member states which must be much greater than the sum of its parts, must do a lot more. And to be able to do that, it must be much, much stronger. It must be much stronger in order to be able to stand up for freedom and dignity because nothing else matters in this world. (Besides being obliged to lead the world in tackling and surviving climate change.)
The good people of the EU must dial down the dominant consumerist, pleasure-laden culture and domestic squabbling over ill-advised moot points. Their political establishment elites must take down their Eastern Partnership-type rose-colored glasses, and rapidly prepare for a world of growing evil coming from various foreign and domestic threats seeking to drown and obliterate Western democracy and human freedom. The bizarre case of Lukashenko’s plane arrest of Pratasevic is just one of the more benign examples of what we’re up against.
(Photos: video grabs from the “confession videos” of Raman Pratasevic and Sofia Sapega)