Belarus issues interrogation of jailed journalist Protasevich | News from Europe


Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich he said in an interrogation, broadcast on state television on Wednesday, that it was of no use to the country’s political opposition calling for street protests against longtime president Alexander Lukashenko.

Protasevich was arrested last month along with his girlfriend after Ryanair’s May 23 flight from Greece to Lithuania, the couple on board, was forced to land in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

In his second appearance since the incident, Protasevich appeared relaxed, smoking while talking to an unidentified interlocutor.

“It simply came to our notice then [protest] the activity at the moment, “the 26-year-old told the broadcast, repeating the Belarusian claim that the plane should be diverted after a Hamas bomb threat. The Palestinian group has denied any involvement .

“Now we have to give up … the activity in the street that we had before, the formats in which we worked. Because now there is no such activity and now there can be none, ”Protasevich said.

“When I was in Vilnius, I said openly that there was no need for street protests. At the very least, we have to wait for the economic situation to warm up so that people can take to the streets to look for a bowl of soup ”.

The Belarusian opposition, which last week said it was preparing to hold a new phase of active anti-government demonstrations after last year’s first rallies, did not immediately comment on the issue..

The opposition has previously suggested that the previous video confessions made last month by Protasevich and his girlfriend, Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, be confounded. Both now face criminal charges.

Protasevich claims to have been “created”

The video of Protasevich, who fled Belarus in 2019, came after a first appearance on state television last week, during which he said he had helped orchestrate the massive anti-government protests that erupted after Lukashenko won. a sixth term during a disputed August Election.

The protests erupted during the winter amid harsh repression by Belarusian authorities that led to the arrest of tens of thousands of people.

Protasevich’s parents, who live in Poland, said the confession appeared to have been coerced and that the makeup appeared to cover the blows on his face.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian opposition in exile, said on Monday that she believed Protasevich had been beaten and tortured in prison.

In his last appearance, Protasevich said he had been established before being arrested by an unidentified partner.

He described seeing heavily armed special forces waiting while the plane was moving to a parking lot.

“It was a dedicated SWAT unit: uniforms, vests and vests,” Protasevich said.

The journalist said he disclosed his travel plans in a chat with associates 40 minutes before his departure. He alleged that the bomb threat could have been issued by someone with whom he had a personal conflict, but did not delve into it.

Protasevich alleged that the person, whom he did not identify, had links to hackers who had attacked Belarusian official websites and had launched bomb threats in the past.

“The first thing I thought was they created me,” he said. “When the plane was on a runway, I realized it’s useless to panic.”

Belarusian authorities have said they were unaware that Protasevich was on board the May 23 flight.

Wednesday’s broadcast appeared intended to support the dispute.

The presenter of the broadcast on the ONT channel claimed that officials did not know that Protasevich was a passenger on the plane when he was ordered to land in the country’s capital.

Sanctions of retaliation

Western countries have condemned the Lukashenko government for the forced landing of the plane and many European Union countries have imposed airspace restrictions on the Belarusian national airline Belavia.

The EU and the United States have also deployed retaliatory sanctions.

But Lukashenko has done it defended flight diversion as a legitimate response to the bomb threat and pledged to respond harshly to sanctions.

On Thursday, Belarus told the United States that it was reducing the permitted number of diplomats and other officials of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Minsk in response to Washington measures.

In a statement on its website, the ministry said it would also tighten visa procedures for U.S. citizens working on the mission.

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