Belarus removes Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega under house arrest News from Europe

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Critics warn that the move does not mean freedom for the detained activist and his Russian partner.

Dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was dramatically arrested in Minsk last month after his plane was forced to land in Minsk, has been remanded in custody, according to Belarusian opposition data.

Protasevich, 26, was arrested on May 23 along with his Russian partner Sofia Sapega, 23, after Belarusian authorities stormed a fighter jet to intercept his Ryanair jet in response to an alleged threat. of bomb.

They were accused of helping coordinate anti-government protests last year, which grew after President Alexander Lukashenko, who had long called for a sixth term in the disputed August election.

On Friday, an adviser to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said he had spoken to Protasevich’s parents, who told him his son had been remanded in custody.

“It simply came to our notice then. It is a prison of a different kind. The people of the KGB live in the same room with him, “tweeted Franak Viacorka, referring to Belarus’ national intelligence agency.

Earlier, the BBC’s Russian service quoted Protasevich’s father, Dmitry, as saying that his son had been remanded in custody in a rented flat in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

He said authorities had not provided further information.

Sapega’s lawyer, Alexander Filanovich, told his Telegram channel that she had also been taken into house arrest, adding that she hoped her case would “be resolved positively in the near future”.

Sapega’s stepfather told the BBC that his flat was separate from Protasevich’s.

“House arrest does not mean freedom”

Tsikhanouskaya, who lives in exile in EU member state Lithuania, praised the development as “good news” but said on his Telegram channel that the couple “remained hostage”.

“House arrest does not mean freedom,” he said.

After their arrests, Protasevich and Sapega appeared in “confession” videos that their supporters said were recorded under duress.

Protasevich faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Protasevich’s father told the BBC that his son and Sapega “were still under the full control of the authorities” and that the charges against them had not been dropped.

Most of Lukashenko’s opponents are already in prison or have fled the country.

In response to the arrests of Protasevich and Sapega, which sparked international outrage, Brussels banned Belarusian state-owned Belavia from operating flights to 27-nation bloc airports and discouraged EU airlines from flying over Belarus.

The EU and the United States have imposed waves of sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies for cracking down on protests that have detained thousands and reported police brutality.

The United States, the EU, the United Kingdom and Canada joined on Monday in impose radical sanctions to several senior Belarusian officials.

The EU also imposed a series of strong economic sanctions targeting Belarus’ s key exports, including potash (a common ingredient in fertilizers) and petroleum products.

In a statement on Friday, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said the aim of the sanctions was to “disintegrate and undermine a sovereign and independent state.”





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