Vitaly Shishov, the head of a Kiev-based organization helping Belarusians flee abroad, was found dead on Tuesday, a day after he went missing, according to Ukraine’s National Police. Belarus has been in political and social turmoil since last year, when a disputed election led to mass protests, then a violent crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko that has been condemned by the international community.
Dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was arrested when a Ryanair flight was diverted to Belarus, has been moved from jail to house arrest. Mr Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega were seized on 23 May when their flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to Minsk because of an alleged bomb threat. Mr Protasevich ran a messaging channel that was widely used in last year’s massive protests against hardline Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko,
Dissident journalist Roman Protasevich has been filmed appearing to praise Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in a new video. In the clip, recorded for Belarusian state-controlled TV, Mr Protasevich was asked whether he respected the president, to which he replied: “Absolutely.” Mr Protasevich, 26, said Mr Lukashenko has “acted like a man with balls of steel”, despite the “pressure” of resistance movements like his.
A Belarusian activist stabbed his own throat during a court hearing in Minsk on Tuesday, according to local human rights watchdog Viasna 96. According to the organization, Steffan Latypov, who is facing allegations of organizing protests and resisting arrest, stabbed himself in the neck during the hearing because of alleged threats from authorities against his family if he didn’t plead guilty.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Wednesday a journalist pulled off a plane that was forced to land in Minsk had been plotting a rebellion, and he accused the West of waging a hybrid war against him. In his first public remarks since a Belarusian warplane intercepted a Ryanair flight on Sunday, he showed no hint of backing down from confrontation with countries that accuse him of air piracy.
Several European airlines have said that they will not fly over Belarus, days after a dissident journalist was arrested on a flight diverted to Minsk. Air France is the latest major carrier to ban overflights. Neighboring Ukraine and Poland are stopping all flights to and from Belarus. Western countries accuse Belarus of hijacking the Ryanair plane carrying journalist Roman Protasevich on Sunday.
Western countries have condemned Belarus for diverting a plane flying over its territory to arrest an opposition journalist. EU leaders are due to discuss their response to what the union’s executive called a “hijacking” and the US state department said was “a shocking act”. Belarus scrambled a fighter jet to force the plane – bound for Lithuania – to land, claiming a bomb threat. Police took Roman Protasevich away when passengers disembarked.
The EU has said it does not recognize Alexander Lukashenko as the president of Belarus, a day after he was sworn in for a sixth term at a secret ceremony. The bloc’s diplomatic chief said the unannounced inauguration, as well as his disputed re-election last month, lacked “any democratic legitimacy”. The opposition says the poll was rigged in Mr Lukashenko’s favor.
A prominent Belarusian opposition leader is facing up to five years in prison after she was charged with incitement to undermine national security, authorities in the eastern European country said Wednesday. Maria Kolesnikova called for “actions aimed at undermining Belarusian national security” using the media and the Internet, the country’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Unidentified masked men snatched the leading Belarusian opposition figure, Maria Kolesnikova, from the street in the center of the capital, Minsk, on Monday and drove her away in a minivan, witnesses told local media. Kolesnikova was one of the campaign partners of the opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory against the long-ruling president, Alexander Lukashenko, in disputed elections on 9 August.