The parents of arrested Raman Pratasevich gave a press conference in Warsaw on Thursday. Part of the conference was broadcast live.
Pratasevich’s mother Natallya appealed to the international community: “I beg you, I urge you: save my son!”
According to her, Raman is being persecuted for the truth he kept telling as a journalist and blogger.
“He never called for mass riots, he never called for violence or hostilities. He was just reporting about what was going on and is going on in Belarus,” Natallya Pratasevich stressed.
Stsyapan Putsila, a well-known Belarusian blogger and Raman’s former colleague, said he considered the hijacking of the Ryanair plane as ‘an act of international terrorism’. In his opinion, it was the Belarusian special services’ premeditated operation, the purpose of which was to frame Pratasevich, who is ‘one of Lukashenka’s personal enemies’.
“It is highly likely that Raman is being put to torture now,” Putsila said, adding that the Belarusian KGB does not shun even banned methods, including certain chemicals substances, in order to exert pressure on arrestees and forcing confessions out of them.
The arrest of Raman is the regime’s retaliation for his work for Telegram channel NEXTA which played an important role in the peaceful post-election protests in Belarus, he believes.
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 list 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 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.