They Tortured Raman: Will European and American Leaders be up to the Challenge of History?

Raman Protasevich was kidnapped by the Belarusian security services in an act of air piracy that must be considered a terrorist action. Shortly after his arrest, the dictator’s official television station broadcast the first video of Roman, who was exhausted and visibly tortured, like almost all the prisoners in the regime’s jails.

Last week, it broadcast a long interview with a so-called journalist in which Raman “confessed” to his crimes, praised Lukashenka’s “steel balls” and denounced the foreign control of the opposition in exile. He had obviously been severely tortured and bore the scars. The Belarusian KGB had also exerted on him unbearable psychological pressure, the content of which we can guess.

This video, which is unbearable for any normal human being to watch, is reminiscent of Stalinist trials and the broadcasting of images of hostages by terrorist groups. According to Russian media reports, he will soon be “interrogated” by people from the so-called “Republic of Luhansk”, the Ukrainian territory of Donbass, which is actually controlled by Moscow. The Russian regime there had moreover broadcast odious campaigns against Raman Protasevich accusing him of having been in the pay of Ukrainian Nazi groups, propaganda taken up by some of its relays in the West.

We can fear for Raman’s life.

As if that were not enough, the head of Russia Today, had legitimized his kidnapping and supported all the persecutions against him in terms of extreme violence that did not spare the Russian opponents of her master. As for Putin, far from condemning the act of air piracy, he not only confirmed his support for the criminal regime in Belarus, but left it ambiguous what he would do if a plane carrying an opponent flew over Russia. It is, in fact, more than likely that the Russian regime was at least informed about this hijacking.

Let us be clear: Putin and Lukashenka are accomplices in crime and both have already committed too many crimes.

Certainly, our governments must give much more consistent support to the opposition in exile, which must be recognized as the legitimate government of Belarus, civil society, and especially the free media and trade unions. They must welcome people from that country and, in particular, welcome Belarusian students to our universities. How can we also imagine that large European companies, some of them close to the States, continue to invest in these countries, and first of all Russia, whose possibility to undertake acts of aggression and terror they thus develop? The Nordstream 2 gas pipeline, which must be stopped, is only the extreme example of this complacency and blindness.
But we must go further. The question is not only that of sanctions, as indispensable as they may be — those aimed at the personalities of the Belarusian regime are singularly slow to be put in place — but the decisive action that Europeans and Americans will take against these regimes. At a time when many people are talking about Europe as a power and the return of the United States to the international scene, this is the decisive test.

It is our historical responsibility. Will we have enough intelligence? Hic Rhodus, hic salta.

International and security affairs analyst, former head of department at the General Planning Commission, lecturer at Sciences-Po Paris, author of three official reports to the government and 22 books.

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