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Pratasevych, Sapega moved to house arrest - RFE/RL

25.06.2021, 13:26

Jailed journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who were arrested after Belarus diverted to Minsk a passenger plane they were on, have been moved from the prisons where they were being held to house arrest.

Dzmitry Pratasevich told the BBC on June 25 that he was not sure why the move was made, adding that "maybe he is involved in some kind of political game," as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"The lawyer does not say anything, the authorities do not say anything," Pratasevich added.

"If the measure of restraint is changed, this is an improvement in their living conditions. Otherwise, what will happen next is unknown."

Sapega's lawyer, Anton Gashinsky, told Current Time that he had been informed that his client's parents met with their daughter on June 24.

"Yesterday, Sofia's parents met with her. The meeting took place in a restaurant, under guard, because house arrest implies the presence of an escort," Gashinsky said.

Gashinsky said he believes that Sapega's transfer to house arrest was connected primarily with last month's meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and and Belarus's authoritarian ruler, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in Sochi.

Earlier Sapega's stepfather told the BBC that his daughter had been moved to house arrest and was living alone in a small apartment in Minsk.

"We are in shock," the BBC quoted Sergei Dudich as saying.

On May 23, Belarusian authorities scrambled a military jet to escort a Ryanair passenger flight over its airspace to land in Minsk in what many countries regard as a "state hijacking." After the plane landed, Pratasevich, an opposition blogger, and his Russian girlfriend Sapega were immediately arrested.

On June 24, the European Union imposed sanctions on key sectors of the Belarusian economy and major revenue sources for the regime of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, including potash fertilizer exports, the tobacco industry, petroleum, and petrochemical products, in response to the incident.

In a statement on June 25, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry described the sanctions as being part of an effort to "disintegrate and undermine a sovereign and independent state," and said Minsk would take unspecified retaliatory measures in the coming weeks.

Lukashenka's regime has been under international pressure since it launched a brutal crackdown on the political opposition and independent media in the wake of a disputed election in August 2020.

The protesters have said that election was rigged, while the EU, the United States, and other countries have refused to recognize the official results of the vote and do not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader.

RAdio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, BBC

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