The whereabouts of Raman Pratasevich is still unknown; the journalist who was arrested by the Belarusian authorities has been out of reach since Sunday morning, his phone is unavailable.
Raman’s relatives are trying to get information about his situation, but the authorities have not reported either his whereabouts or the details of the case, the journalist’s mother Natallya said when reached by Belsat.
“There is no information. We have hired a lawyer, we are talking, we are corresponding, but nothing is known about the son,” she said.
A day earlier, Natallya Pratasevich told Belsat about her latest conversation contact with the son.
Do you know what is happening to Raman?
Unfortunately, I do not know. We get information from the posts on Telegram channels.
Was he returning alone or with some acquaintances?
As far as I know, he was alone [Later, it became known that Raman was in company of his girlfriend Safiya Sapeha – Belsat]. He was always trying to keep me out [of negative news], since I have certain health problems. All I know is the information that has already appeared on Telegram. Of course, as mother and son, we kept communicating [on the Internet]. He has not been in touch since this [Sunday] morning; I wrote to him, asked what was going on, but I did not get any reply. Later, I read [the news] and learned [about the incident] ex post facto.
Who might have been aware of raman’s returning from Greece to Lithuania?
At first, he was about to be there [in Greece] for two weeks. At the same time, he planned to come back earlier, but he did not give a specific date to the last. The day before we corresponded, I asked when he was going to fly back. A few days before the flight he told me that it would take place on 23 May. [The special services might have got this information] only when tapping my phone, but Roma said the Telegram was safe. I learned about his flight from our personal correspondence. No one else knew, unless Roma told them.
Has Raman ever mentioned threats or something in that style?
No, he did not say anything about him being watched or threatened.
On May 23, Ryanair’s Boeing 737-8AS which was flying from Athens to Vilnius unexpectedly changed its course over the Belarusian town of Lida and headed to Minsk. Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka personally gave the order to land the plane in the Belarusian capital city; in order to ‘escort’ the passenger carrier, a MiG-29 fighter was scrambled. It should be noted that the plane was not far from the Belarusian-Lithuanian air border at that moment; it was at a distance of 90 km from Vilnius and about 200 km – from Minsk.
A bit later, it became known that the Belarusian authorities arrested journalist Raman Pratasevich, whom they consider as a ‘terrorist’ at Minsk National Airport; he happened to be among the passengers of the widely-reported flight. The bomb threat was officially refuted by the airport administration. The operation of forcibly landing the Ryanair airplane seems to have been deliberately planned and performed by pro-Lukashenka secret services.
In November 2020, Stsyapan Putsila, the founder of NEXTA TG channels, and Raman Pratasevich, a former deputy editor of the channels, were included in the ‘List of organisations and individuals involved in terrorist activities’ by the Belarusian authorities. The NEXTA group kept steering and controlling the 2020 post-election protests in Belarus via channels on the web, the regime believes.