Detained journalist broke his own rule – Never fly over Belarus, says friend

By Andrius Sytas Alicja Ptak
May 27, 2021

Roman Protasevich, the Belarusian journalist jailed after his plane was forced to land on Sunday, had decided to avoid flying over Belarus because of the risk of being intercepted but let his guard down, a friend told Reuters.

Protasevich, a critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, is now in a Minsk jail along with Sofia Sapega, his girlfriend, on charges his friends say are trumped up.

Charges against him include organising mass riots, and he faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

In a dramatic turn of events, a passenger plane carrying them back from a holiday in Greece to their homes in Lithuania was diverted to Belarus on Sunday after authorities there flagged what turned out to be a hoax bomb threat and scrambled a MiG-29 fighter jet to escort the plane to Minsk.

Stsiapan Putsila, a friend and founder of the Warsaw-based anti-government Nexta news outlet where Protasevich worked for 10 months last year, said nobody could have predicted the exact nature of Sunday’s events.

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