On Wednesday, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, had a phone conversation with the parents of 26-year-old Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich, whom the Lukashenka regime arrested on May, 23.
“I just called [Raman’s father] Dzmitry Pratasevich to express the EU’s fullest solidarity with the Pratasevich family and my deep empathy as a father. I reiterate the EU’s call on Belarus authorities to immediately release his son Raman, Sofia Sapega as well as all political prisoners,” Michel said on Twitter.
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.
On May 24, the first video of Raman Pratasevich appeared in pro-government telegram channels. In the video, the blogger confirmed his detention and said that at the moment, he was in the detention centre in Valadarski street and had no problems with his heart or other organs. At the same time, his mother Natallya Pratasevich suggested that he officers beat him badly to extract a confession and film that video.