As of: May 24, 2021 9:19 PM

For a long time, the leadership in Minsk remained silent about Protasevich’s whereabouts, and now they announced that he was being held. State television broadcast a “confession video” to the journalist. Nothing is known about the whereabouts of his girlfriend.

One day after a passenger plane was forced to land in Minsk, Belarusian authorities confirmed the arrest of blogger Roman Protasevic. The Interior Ministry told Telegram news channel that he had been arrested. The 26-year-old was arrested at Minsk Airport on Sunday. At the same time, the Ministry of Interior rejected reports on social media about the journalist’s presence in the hospital.

Reports criticize the government

For more than 24 hours, the country’s authoritarian leadership provided no information on the whereabouts of the opposition activist. He was originally on a Ryanair plane en route from Athens to Vilnius. Shortly before the destination – and thus shortly before its arrival in European Union airspace – Belarusian military aircraft forced the machine to land in Minsk. Protasevic and his girlfriend were arrested there.

Protasevich, who was wanted in his homeland for instigating protests against the ruler Alexander Lukashenko, among other things, had lived in exile in Lithuania. He is now facing many years in prison. Protaswich is one of the founders of the critical government news channel Nexta. The authorities in Belarus classify NEXA as “extremist”. The channel has repeatedly called for mass protests against Lukashenko after last year’s elections.

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State TV broadcasts a “confession”

In the evening, a video clip was broadcast by Belarusian state television, in which Protasevic could be watched. “I will continue to work with investigators and admit that I organized mass protests in Minsk,” he said in the video. “The staff treat me completely decent and respect the law,” says Protasevic, who was sitting at a table, in front of the camera. It remains unclear when, where, and under what circumstances the video was recorded.

Is he being tortured?

The leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tishanovskaya, expressed concern about the whereabouts of the activist. “It is very likely that he is now being tortured by members of the Special Forces,” Tychhanovskaya told BNS in Vilnius. She is in contact with Protasevic’s parents. According to Tshanovskaya, his girlfriend, a 23-year-old student with a Russian passport, was transferred to the notorious Okrestina Prison in Minsk. It is not known what you accuse him of.

The European Union unanimously condemned the actions of Belarus and called for Protasevic’s release. Amnesty International spoke of an “apparent act of aerial piracy”. There is no doubt that the plane was forced to land “with one clear goal of arresting a critical journalist living in exile who wanted to absolutely silence him.”

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