Who is Sofia Sapega?
Sofia Sapega is widely known as the girlfriend of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich who was arrested after a plane flying from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, forced by the Belarusian government to divert to Minsk on Sunday. Sofia was also detained following the unexpected grounding.
She was traveling with Protasevich and flying to Vilnius to defend her Master’s thesis, according to a European Humanities University statement.
And it is still unknown why Raman’s girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, was detained. “Mom” was the only message Sofia managed to send to her mother before the detention. Sofia is a Russian citizen, but the consul hasn’t visited her yet, her lawyer was not allowed to the detention centre. pic.twitter.com/SrttoFRWIq
— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) May 24, 2021
Sapega’s family confirmed her detainment Monday, the spokesperson told the outlet.
How old is Sofia Sapega?
Sofia Sapega is 23 years old as of the year 2021.
Roman Protasevich Sofia Sapega
Sapega and Protasevich had been vacationing together in Greece, a university spokesperson told Reuters. Sapega, who is a Russian citizen, had been vacationing with Protasevich in Greece, according to a university spokesperson who confirmed the news to Reuters.
A Lithuanian passenger, who gave his name only as Mantas, said that on hearing the news that the plane was being diverted, Protasevich immediately opened an overhead locker, pulled out a laptop and a phone and gave them to a female companion. She was later identified Sapega.
On landing, Protasevich was immediately separated from Sapega but alter she too was arrested.
Roman Protasevich Girlfriend
Belarusian authorities on Sunday sent a fighter jet to divert a Ryanair plane, citing a bogus bomb threat.
When the passenger plane was forced to land in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, police officers boarded the jet and arrested Protasevich, who has been a vocal opponent to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s rule. Passengers on the flight told The Daily Beast that as soon as Ryanair announced the diversion, Protasevich “immediately” opened the overhead compartment to collect his electronics, handing his laptop and phone over to Sapega.
But Protasevich and Sapega were both detained by the Administration of the Investigative Committee for the city of Minsk on what Sapega’s university called “groundless and made-up conditions,” in a statement following her arrest. It is not clear what charges Sapega was detained on.
BREAKING: EU leaders have called for a barrage of new sanctions against the government of strongman Alexander Lukashenko, and demanded the release of opposition activist Roman Protasevich and his traveling companion, Sofia Sapega.https://t.co/YJDWDccXcl
— POLITICOEurope (@POLITICOEurope) May 24, 2021
Sofia Sapega Arrest
The Russian Embassy in Minsk told The New York Times that Belarus had notified the consul of Sapega’s detention. Sapega’s university said it is providing her immediate consular assistance and called on the international community and human rights defenders to assist in her release.
“Sofia’s groupmates and faculty members tell that the student is well regarded due to her academic performance and reputation in EHU’s community,” the statement said.
Belarusian state media has reported that it was Lukashenko who gave the “unequivocal order” to ground the plane in Minsk. Flightradar.com data that shows the jet was closer to its destination in Lithuania than Minsk, Insider’s Cheryl Teh reported.
The airline’s CEO said Monday that Belarusian KGB agents were on board the Ryanair plane.
Lawyers looking to help Protasevich told The Times they believe he is being held in a jail in Minsk operated by the Belarusian intelligence service.
On Monday, Belarusian authorities posted a video of Protasevich, in which he said he was cooperating with authorities.
— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) May 24, 2021
Sofia Sapega Instagram
In a statement given to Reuters, the university said: “As a result of a cover operation by the Belarusian authorities, the student was detained by the Administration of the Investigative Committee for the city of Minsk on groundless and made-up conditions.”
Needles to say, Sapega was unfortunate to be on the flight, which led to her arrest. Her university has condemned her arrest.
Sapega was flying to Vilnius to defend her Master’s thesis at the university to graduate from her five-year course. Sapega is a law student at the university, which was founded in Minsk in 1992 but forced by Belarusian authorities to relocate in 2004 to neighboring Lithuania.
Sapega’s university has urged the international community and human rights defenders to assist in her release. “Sofia’s groupmates and faculty members tell that the student is well regarded due to her academic performance and reputation in EHU’s community,” the university statement read.
Boyfriend Roman 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.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a statement and called the incident a “forced landing on false pretenses”.