Video of Belarusian journalist in prison after hijacking – Times of India

KYIV: Dissident journalist arrested while Belarus hijacked his theft said in a prison video that it was set up by an unidentified associate.
The footage of Raman Pratasevich was part of an hour-long documentary that aired Wednesday night by state-controlled channel ONT. In the film, 26-year-old Pratasevich is also shown saying that the protests against authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko are now unnecessary in the midst of a harsh crackdown and suggest that the opposition is waiting for a more opportune moment.
The film claimed that Belarusian authorities were unaware that Pratasevich was on board the Ryanair jet en route from Athens to Vilnius when flight controllers diverted him to Minsk on May 23 citing a bomb threat.
No bomb was found after the landing, but Pratasevich was arrested along with his Russian girlfriend. The hijacking of the flight outraged the European Union, which responded by banning the Belarusian national carrier from flying, called on European carriers to bypass Belarus and drafted deadly new sanctions against key sectors of the Belarusian economy.
Lukashenko, who has ruled with an iron fist the former Soviet nation of 9.3 million people for more than a quarter of a century, accused the West of trying to “strangle” his country with sanctions.
Belarus was rocked by months of protests fueled by its re-election for a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that was widely seen as rigged. Lukashenko has only intensified the repression and more than 35,000 people have been arrested since the protests began, and thousands have been beaten.
Pratasevich, who left Belarus in 2019, has become one of Lukashenko’s main enemies. He ran a very popular channel on the Telegram A messaging app that has played a key role in organizing the massive anti-government protests and has been charged with inciting mass unrest – charges punishable by 15 years in prison.
Lukashenko last week accused Pratasevich of fomenting a “bloody rebellion” and defended the Ryanair hijacking as a legitimate response to the bomb threat.
The ONT documentary appeared intended to substantiate this claim by claiming that Belarusian authorities were unaware that Pratasevich was on the plane when they hijacked him.
In the video, the reporter alleged that the bomb threat could have been issued by someone with whom he had had a personal conflict. He accused the perceived perpetrator he did not name of having connections to oppositional mind hackers who have attacked official Belarusian websites and launched bomb threats in the past.
Pratasevich’s remarks included in the documentary did not explain the type of personal conflict the journalist had with the alleged person.
“When the plane was on a landing path, I realized there was no point in panicking,” Pratasevich said. After the plane taxied to a parking spot, he described seeing heavily armed Special Forces waiting.
“He was a dedicated TO CRUSH unit – uniforms, bulletproof vests and weapons, ”he said.
A day after his arrest, Pratasevich was already appearing in a video of his detention broadcast on Belarusian state television. Speaking quickly and in a monotonous tone, he said he confessed to organizing mass unrest. Her parents, who now live in Poland, said the confession appeared to have been forced.

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