Saturday, 19 June, 2021


Sofia Sapega, Russian student arrested alongside Belarus activist, appears in 'confession' video

Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich detained when a Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk is seen in a pre-trial detention facility as he says in Minsk Belarus Biden calls Belarus plane diversion an 'outrageous incident'
Conrad Doyle | 26 May, 2021, 14:52

The spokesperson for the U.N.'s human rights office, Rupert Colville, said Pratasevich's appearance was likely not voluntary and that he seemed to have bruising to his face, though it was hard to tell from the footage.

European Union leaders promised new sanctions on Belarus after a flight from Greece to Lithuania was grounded on Sunday and passenger Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian opposition journalist, was arrested.

Lukashenko used the purported threat of a bomb Sunday aboard a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, to force the jetliner to land in Minsk.

Lufthansa, KLM, SAS, Air France, LOT and Singapore Airlines were among carriers that announced they would stop flying over Belarus.

The move to limit flights from Belarus reflected the anger among European countries and people's belief that there must be consequences for Lukashenko, whose government has already face repeated volleys of sanctions.

'I think that's what the Belarus opposition wants to have happen, ' she said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has deemed the event "state hijacking" and Ireland and France have characterized it as piracy amid mounting worldwide outrage.

The Athens-to-Vilnius flight carrying a wanted opposition activist Roman Protasevich was forced to make a landing in Minsk on Sunday over a supposed bomb scare, prompting several European Union carriers to stop flights over Belarus.

After the passengers were informed that plane was being diverted to Minsk on Sunday, Protasevich told fellow passengers he was "facing the death penalty", the Lithuanian news site Delfi News reported.

The transcript, which Reuters could not independently verify, differs from excerpts previously released by Belarus state TV, which had suggested the pilot had asked to land in Minsk, rather than that the controller had advised him to do so.

Belarus has not commented on the torture allegation but has consistently denied abusing detainees.

Pratasevich, who left Belarus in 2019 and ran a popular messaging app that played a key role in helping organize huge protests against Lukashenko, has been charged in absentia with staging mass riots and fanning social hatred.

During Lukashenko's crackdown on dissent since last August's presidential election, almost all opposition figures have been driven into exile or jailed, many on charges of organising demonstrations, which the government describes as terrorism. More measures could follow after the brazen capture of Roman Pratasevich.

With a file from The Associated Press. He added that following Pratasevich's arrest, they have received a flow of new threats "that we are the next, that we will not be even taken to Belarus but will be executed right away, that our office will be blown up and we have to be afraid".

Only a small number of those come via Belarus, the organisation says, though it is not clear how many are stopped from crossing.

Lukashenko has faced unprecedented pressure at home from months of protests triggered by his reelection to a sixth term last August, in a vote that the opposition and many Western nations reject as rigged.

But he has only intensified repression, and more than 35,000 people have been arrested since the protests began, with thousands beaten.

Biden on Monday said he supported the EU's push to sanction Belarus and called for Protasevich's immediate release, adding that his administration would "develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and worldwide organizations".

"This was a clear attack on democracy and on the freedom of the press", Trudeau told a news conference, joining global outrage.

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