A journalist who picked up a Ryanair jet after it was forced to land in Belarus is featured in a video filmed in a prison.
In the video, Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich claims he is in good health and admits that he played a role in organizing mass protests in Minsk over the past year.
The opposition activist, who appears on several channels of the Telegram messaging app, wears a dark sweatshirt and has his hands tightly folded in front of him. He is in a pre-trial detention center in Minsk and denies having had heart problems reported on some social media.
He says that he has been treated “correctly and lawfully” and that he will continue to cooperate with the criminal investigation into his activities.
Protasevich then says he will confess to organizing mass riots after translating his message.
It was alleged that the 26-year-old journalist was forced to make the statement under duress.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who ran as the main opposition candidate in the 2020 elections, which she claims was manipulated by the president Alexander Lukashenko tweeted: “The regime’s propaganda channels have released a video of the arrested Roman Protasevich declaring that he is being treated lawfully in Minsk Detention Center No. 1.
“This is what Raman looks like under physical and moral pressure. I demand the immediate release of Raman and all political prisoners.”
Others have suggested that obvious markings on Protasevich’s forehead suggest that he was struck.
It is unclear when the video was taken, but it was released after reports that he was seriously ill with heart disease.
Pawel Jablonski, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, told private broadcaster TVN24 that Protasevich’s mother had contacted his government.
“We received a signal from Roman Protasevich’s mother that his health situation is very serious,” he said.
“That’s as much as I can say on the subject.”
The journalist was arrested in Minsk after Ryanair flight FR4978 from Greece to Lithuania changed course last night after a Belarusian MIG fighter was sentenced to a perceived fear of bombs.
Michael O’Leary, CEO of the Dublin-based airline, claimed the forced landing was a “state sponsored kidnapping” and that “KGB agents” were on the plane.
More than 100 passengers had to land in Belarus against their will – and the action led to the arrest of the journalist Roman Protasevich, who was described by Mr. Raab as “false” accusations of the regime led by Alexander Lukashenko.
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said Belarus had done a “calculated and cynical trick” with a “joke bomb alarm” – and that further measures to combat its measures via the Nord Stream pipeline did not rule out.
The Belarusian ambassador to the UK was called to the UK today to convey his “condemnation” of the incident.
Raab told parliament: “The reported scenario is a shocking attack on civil aviation and an attack on international law.
“It poses a threat to civilian flights everywhere and is a tremendous and extraordinary departure from international law and the international practice that governs international civil aviation under the Chicago Convention.”
Mr Raab said that there was apparently no danger of being bombed. He told parliament: “The Belarusian authorities alleged that this was related to an alleged bomb threat. We haven’t seen any evidence to support this claim.
“What we saw is that Belarus messed up a MIG fighter, forced the plane to divert to Minsk, and then used that emergency landing as an opportunity to arrest a prominent journalist.”
Lukashenko, 66, faced the greatest challenge of his nearly 27-year rule from protesters who took to the streets after he was declared the election winner last year.
Around 35,000 people have been arrested since the regular demonstrations began in August 2020. Lukashenko denies election fraud and accuses the West of sponsoring the protests.