Who is Roman Protasevich?
Roman Protasevich is a well-known Belarusian activist who was reportedly arrested in a dramatic manner in the capital city of Minsk on May 23. Protasevich was arrested after his flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to Minsk, reportedly on the orders of Lukashenko himself.
The vocal activist was against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. According to reports, the president ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to accompany the Ryanair commercial jet to Minsk while it was en route to Vilnius. After landing at Minsk airport, Protasevich was arrested by local police and taken to jail. After helping organize mass protests against Lukashenko in 2020, he was declared an “extremist” by the state.
A commercial flight from Greece to Lithuania was intercepted by a fighter jet and diverted to Belarus on Sunday in order to arrest a dissident journalist on board: 26-year-old Roman Protasevich. Here’s what we know. https://t.co/951W5yaD0X
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 24, 2021
Roman Protasevich Age
Roman Protasevich is 26 years old as of the year 2021.
Roman Protasevich Wikipedia
His name is Roman Protasevich. According to a Russian report, he was detained on multiple occasions in the past since he began political activism.
In 2020, his friend Vladimir Chudentsov was arrested on charges of drug smuggling and sexual assault. He told the Russian publication, “I was the first person who learned about his detention. I was the first person who fanned the information wave… I also actively spoke on social networks, I actively informed the public about the progress of this case. Of course, my person could not be ignored by law enforcement agencies.”
Due to his activities, Protasevich faces four criminal cases, with a total term of imprisonment of up to 25 years. “How many things are real, we have no idea,” he said. Nonetheless, the fear of jail led him to seek asylum in Poland. On January 22, he submitted his documents to the Polish government.”
“Before he could gain asylum though, he was arrested by Belarusian authorities, in a move that has been widely slammed on social media.
Roman Protasevich NEXTA
Reportedly, security services began shadowing Protasevich, and he claims his phone was tapped. He became a person of interest to Lukashenko after co-running a major anti-Lukashenko group on Russian social network VK. He was detained in 2012 in connection with that group, but released shortly after. Between 2012 and 2019, he worked as a journalist with multiple outlets, before moving to Poland. In 2020, he also began running the NEXTA project.
The Telegram channel is a popular resource in Belarus for information, especially in light of increasingly controlled media by Lukashenko. That led to widespread protests, which Protasevich said he feels responsible for. He told BBC in 2020, “To some extent, I feel responsible for what is happening. I feel uncomfortable when I see footage of people with holes in their bodies, with partially torn-off limbs.”
“Do I feel responsible for what we publish? Only in terms of whether it will bring people closer to victory and the end of the dictatorship.”
On May 23, he drew worldwide attention because the Belarusian government and its authoritarian leader went to extraordinary lengths to stop him
Roman Protasevich Journalist
Mr. Protasevich was traveling by commercial airline from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force scrambled a fighter jet. The flight, on the Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody. The widely condemned tactic was the latest attempt by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the country’s authoritarian leader, to suppress the influential voice of Mr. Protasevich.
According to the president’s office, the MiG was ordered due to a “bomb threat” when the flight was over Belarusian airspace.
Officials did search the flight after it landed, but found no explosives on board. After seven hours, the commercial jet was allowed to take off and reach Vilnius, with all passengers on board except Protasevich. Why was he arrested? Here’s everything we know.
“The only way for him to remain in power is to go after his opponents.”
Alena Kudzko says Roman Protasevich’s arrest is a new level of risk taken by the government, and President Lukashenko “cares very little” about international condemnation.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 24, 2021
Roman Protasevich Twitter
The arrest of Protasevich has led to massive criticism of the Lukashenko government. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted, “The outrageous and illegal behavior of the regime in Belarus will have consequences. Those responsible for the #Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned.”
“Journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately. EUCO will discuss tomorrow action to take.”
I condemn in the strongest terms the detention of Roman Protasevich by Belarussian authorities, after a Ryanair passenger aircraft was hijacked. This is a reprehensible act of state terrorism.
— Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) May 23, 2021
Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary-General said, “Closely monitoring forcible landing in #Belarus of flight to Vilnius & reported detention of opposition figure Roman Protasevich. This is a serious & dangerous incident that requires international investigation. Belarus must ensure safe return of crew & all passengers.”
Roman Protasevich Arrest
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a statement and called the incident a “forced landing on false pretenses”.
Protasevich’s arrest is likely to have massive implications for Lukashenko. The EU, NATO and the US have already threatened to retaliate against Lukashenko, who is widely called ‘Europe’s last dictator’. He reportedly rigged the 2020 elections to win a record sixth term, leading to widespread protests and arrests. At the heart of those protests was Protasevich, who has built a robust anti-Lukashenko system through NEXTA.
The government’s main security agency in Belarus, called the K.G.B., placed Mr. Protasevich’s name on a list of terrorists.
If he is accused and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.