A Belarusian fighter jet intercepted a flight carrying a Belarusian opposition journalist and 132 other passengers and forced it down in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on May 23. When the journalist was arrested upon landing, it became clear that Belarus’s repressive leader, Alexander Lukashenko, had conducted a state-sponsored hijacking to quash dissent.

The incident infuriated governments in Europe and the United States – but not Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who invited Lukashenko to join him on a Black Sea yacht trip. Belarus has since mostly closed its borders and is preventing citizens from leaving the country. Putin’s defiant support of the rogue Belarusian regime adds yet another contentious topic to President Joe Biden’s agenda in a U.S.-Russia summit planned for June 16.

“Now Biden must also use his personal meeting with Putin to crank up the near global pressure on the Lukashenko regime,” writes Belarus expert Tatsiana Kulakevich of the University of South Florida. “It’s a necessary step to holding Lukashenko accountable, but one Putin is unlikely to endorse.”

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Catesby Holmes

International Editor | Politics Editor

Biden is expected to confront Russian leader Vladimir Putin (center) over his stalwart backing of Europe’s last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko (left). From left to right: Sergei Ilyin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images and Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Belarus plane hijacking snarls Biden’s hopes to repair strained US-Russia relationship

Tatsiana Kulakevich, University of South Florida

Some tension was inevitable at the June 16 US-Russia summit. But Vladimir Putin's defiant support for Belarus's rogue regime now pits him harder against the West.


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