This Week in Neo-Soviet News...

In which a leading American paper quietly excises an inconvenient historical detail

By now most of the world has heard that Aleksandr Lukashenko, longtime title-holder in the fiercely-contested category of “dumbest dictator of a former Soviet state,” downed a RyanAir jet in order to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich. The world is aghast. Even by post-Soviet standards for treatment of journalists — which include assassination by exploding briefcase and death by hammer — this is a bad one, and Lukashenko deserves all the condemnation coming his way.

As Glenn Greenwald has documented, however, his is not an unprecedented act. In 2013, a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced down in Austria, where authorities searched the plane for Edward Snowden. Snowden wasn’t on board, but if he had been, it’s very likely he’d have been seized and handed over to the U.S., which had an international warrant out for his arrest.

When Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was asked about the incident in Sochi yesterday, he said the following:

Since everyone is hearing this topic, your fellow journalists have almost immediately prepared a selection of materials related to similar cases in the past. The most famous episode is in 2013 at the insistence of the United States, Austria forced the Bolivia President's plane to land without any further apology… 

That’s at about 20:00 of the video below:

Spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova echoed Lavrov’s remarks in a series of Facebook posts, in which she also said “what’s shocking is that the West calls the incident in the airspace of Belarus ‘shocking.’ ” She wrote the following:

All of which is… whatever. The Russians have their own well-known history of lurid extraterritorial dealings with journalists, so it’s hard to take their official moralizing seriously. But the Washington Post saw fit to cover the matter, and they wrote this:

It’s one thing to avoid mentioning the Snowden incident in covering something like the Protasevich matter. One could argue it’s not relevant (harder if you’re using language like “unprecedented” or “one more international norm gets busted,” but still), or take the tenuous position that the Morales incident wasn’t America’s doing, or even, in a pinch, a reporter and editor could claim ignorance, i.e. “Gosh, we had no idea America did the same thing eight years ago.”

But here the Washington Post is going out of its way to airbrush a reference to Snowden out of the text. They can’t claim ignorance, because they’re telling you they read the remarks. Why bother with the Zakharova quote at all, unless you’re making a point of showing the whitewashing? Bizarre, but also just another day in creeping dystopia.