Blogger Pavel Spiryn has been arrested on Friday in Minsk, human rights centre Viasna reports. It is known that his home was searched.
The Belarusian Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Spiryn under Art. 130-1 of the Criminal Code (‘intentional actions aimed at inciting racial, national, religious or other social hostility or hostility on the grounds of racial, national, religious, linguistic or other social affiliation’). The blogger may face up to 5 years in prison.
The charge is linked to Edge 2019, a film by Spiryn, which the Belarusian authorities put on the list of extremist materials. In it, the filmmaker claimed that senior officers of the Interior Ministry were involved in large-scale drug pushing.
Pavel Spiryn gained popularity with webizens on the back of releasing his film Stepfather, in which he criticised president Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his minions. Since late 2017, the video has been viewed 900,000 times on YouTube. Spiryn did not conceal the fact of his authorship; what is more, he sent out a link to the film to government officials, asking them to watch it.
In the spring of 2020, Spiryn was set to run for presidency, but the Belarusians Central Election Commission refused to register him as a presidential candidate. During the campaign, the Youtuber said that Lukashenka might share the fate of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in the event of vote rigging and turning riot police against protesters.