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Political Persecution and State-Sanctioned Air Piracy in Belarus: How Should the West Respond?

May 27, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT

On May 23rd Alexander Lukashenko, who has served as the President of Belarus since 1994, ordered the forced landing of a European civilian airliner traveling from Athens to Vilnius in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, due to an alleged security threat in his country’s airspace. The real objective, however, was to detain a Belarusian political journalist, Raman Pratasevich, and his partner, Sofia Sapega.

European leaders and U.S. President Joe Biden have condemned the forceful diversion of the plane, the threat to more than 170 passengers and crew on board, and the detention of Lukashenko’s political opponent. In response, the European Union has called for the blockade of the Belarusian airspace and a boycott of the Belarusian airlines Belavia. It is preparing a fourth round of sanctions against Belarus.

Join the American Council on Germany for a discussion about how the West should respond to this unprecedented event and Lukashenko’s brazen disregard for the rule of law with Dr. Joerg Forbrig, Senior Fellow and Director for Central and Eastern Europe at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, and Katsiaryna Shmatsina, Fellow at the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies.

Dr. Joerg Forbrig is a Senior Fellow and the Director for Central and Eastern Europe in the German Marshall Fund’s Berlin office. His work focuses on Europe’s East broadly, including the Eastern-most member countries of the European Union and NATO, the EU’s Eastern neighborhood, and Russia. In addition, he leads GMF efforts to assist civil society in Belarus, and he works closely with the Balkan Trust for Democracy and the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation to bolster democracy assistance to Central and Eastern Europe at large. Prior to joining GMF in 2002, Dr. Forbrig worked as a Robert Bosch Foundation fellow at the Center for International Relations in Warsaw, Poland.

He has been published widely on democracy, civil society, and Central and Eastern European affairs, including the books Reclaiming Democracy (2007), Prospects for Democracy in Belarus (2006), and Revisiting Youth Political Participation (2005). He is also a regular contributor to major international media. Dr. Forbrig studied political science, sociology, and Eastern European affairs at universities in Germany, Poland, and Hungary. He holds a PhD in social and political sciences from the European University Institute in Florence and a master’s in political science from Central European University in Budapest. He speaks English, Russian, Polish, and Slovak in addition to his native German.

Katsiaryna Shmatsina is a Fellow at the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, where she focuses on foreign and security policy, international risk, Russia, Eurasia, and NATO. Previously, she worked for the American Bar Association where she was involved with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), especially in projects on good governance and rule of law in UNDP in-country offices. She also served as a pro bono local expert on Belarus for the World Bank’s Doing Business and Women, Business, and the Law reports.

In the summer of 2019, she was a research fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw. In 2018, she was awarded a fellowship at the Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security, Washington DC. In 2016, she received a Civil Society Leadership Award from the Open Society Foundations. Ms. Shmatsina holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Syracuse University, New York (2016) and a degree in law from Belarusian State University (2013). Apart from mother-tongue Belarusian, she commands Russian, English, German, and French.


May 27, 2021
11:00 am - 12:00 pm