What kind of danger can a 26-year-old journalist offer, for a dictator to intercept the plane he is on, detonating an avalanche of convictions and international sanctions? Criticizing the regime was what Roman Protassevich, a blogger arrested by Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukachenko, on Sunday (23), had been doing for years.
Until the end of 2019, he had been working in his own country, for various independent vehicles or for those in opposition to the authoritarian leader. But it was when he left Belarus that Protassevich began to draw the dictator's attention more fiercely, culminating in the risky detour maneuver of the Ryanair flight.
The blogger told in a video published in 2011 that he decided to fight Lukachenko's regime after witnessing brutal repression against Minsk residents who were making a "clap of hands protest".
"Five huge Omon riot police beat up the women. A mother with her son was thrown into the van. It was disgusting. After that, everything changed fundamentally," he says in the recording.
For watching the demonstration, Protassevich, then 16, was arrested and later expelled from the scientific high school he attended at the time. His mother was only able to enroll him again, in a regular school, after resigning from her teaching position at the Army Academy.
Further arrests and conflicts at the university ruined his chances of getting a journalism degree, but Protassevich was a reporter for several media vehicles and, for ten months, helped colleagues in Poland create and boost Nexta, an information channel via messaging app.
At the end of 2019, under the increasing pressure from the dictatorship against him and his fellow activists, the journalist fled Belarus for good and became one of the main editors of Nexta in Warsaw.
When protesters took to the streets after the August elections last year, the channel circumvented the regime's attempt to demobilize them, making it crucial to organize the major protesting marches. The dictatorship blocked the internet, but Nexta remained active, issuing guidelines on where there were riot troops, the time schedule of the protests, as well as news and documents. Already heated by his performance at Nexta, Lukachenko's indisposition against the journalist increased when he left Poland in September last year and moved to Lithuania, where the opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaia was exiled.
Two months later, he was criminally accused by the Belarusian regime and included on the list of KGB terrorists, the country's secret service. The texts below are news reports by Protassevich submitted especially to Folha by the independent radio Euroradio - they were translated from Belarusian by a Minsk translator who asked not to be identified, for fear of retaliation. Written in 2019, just before the blogger left his country, these articles help us to understand why Lukachenko is trying to silence Protassevich.
After the detention and the night in the sobering station, the Grodno resident had his leg partly amputated
“On the way to the police department the car was stopped near the forest. Denis was taken out of the car and taken a little deeper, behind the trees. And there suddenly began a carousel: one by one the riot police officers began to practice their tricks, while they still were making fun and praising themselves, look how I can! It lasted several dozens of minutes. What he was beaten by professionals is clear, as there were no noticeable bruises or hematomas left.
The brother was later transferred to the police squad with a precinct officer Syarhei Karpuk, who knew exactly what was happening there. When we tried to contact him, it turned out that he went on vacation and it was impossible to contact him. "
A few weeks later Dzyanis was hospitalized - a muscle neurosis develped in his leg. Doctors performed six operations, the man had his leg amputated. Now the infection is reaching the internal organs, and it is unknown whether Denis will survive at all, says Daria.
He decided to wait until the pain went away on its own.
On July 20, the traditional SunDay car festival took place in Grodno. Dzyanis Lukyanau, a car mechanic, also arrived there. Cars are his great hobby, so he could not miss the car festival.
On SunDay Denis came with a friend and his girlfriend. The men got a little drunk. Riot police officers on duty at the festival site detained Dzyanis for being drunk in a public place.
The police department drew up a report on Dzyanis under Article 17.1 of the Administrative Code and issued a minimum fine of 0.2 basic units, i.e. 5 rubles 10 kopecks. He was then sent to a sobering station where the man spent the night.
Denis went to work. His legs hurt badly, but there were no visible injuries. So, Daria says, he decided to wait until the pain will go away on his own and did not report the beating. Three days later, hematomas began to appear on his buttocks. The man decided that it would pass, and just lay at home.
But the case turned out to be much more serious than he thought. Two weeks later, muscle death began. Denis was taken to hospital.
Denis will not definitely be able to walk normally anymore
The man's condition deteriorated rapidly. According to Daria, he underwent six surgeries and amputated part of his left buttock in the hospital in two weeks, but the necrosis did not end. Doctors say that the injuries received by Denis are typical only for an car accident at high speed, when a person squeezes his legs and for a long time he can not be pulled out of the car.
“Dzyanis's muscles not only started to actually move away from the bones and rot, as a result of these processes, an infection has spread higher and higher throughout the body. Now doctors do not give any predictions and almost every day they gather consultations, says Daria. Now, even if his leg will be saved, Dzyanis will definitely not be able to walk normally. Even more frightening is that the infection has already gone above the waist and is about to affect the intestines and stomach, from where it will quickly spread to the whole body. So, the brother can die ”.
The woman, who works as a lawyer, has already prepared statements to the prosecutor's office, the Investigative Committee and the Interior Ministry's own security service.
The press service of the Grodno police told Euroradio that they did not know about the situation and promised to comment on Monday.
Daria doesn't understand how her brother could get into this story:
“I don't believe he could say something rude to anyone there. He also has a family with three children, and he never says a bad word in his life. Yes, he was under the influence of alcohol, but he is one of those people who, when they drink, never show aggression. On the contrary - he becomes quiet, calm, loves everyone and all that.
Euroradio will follow the developments.
Zmitser Palienka Tried to Slash His Wrists in Court
Anarchist Zmitser Palienka tried to slash his wrists in the courtroom when he learned that the hearing would be held behind closed doors. The trial in Palienka's case is taking place in Minsk City Court. According to an Euroradio correspondent from the scene, Palienka was immediately taken out of the hall, but the activists who came to support him refused to leave the room. Despite the incident, the trial continued in the next courtroom. Activists were trying in vain to get into the hall and shouted words of support for Palienka.
"Dmitry Palienka's trial continues the scrupulously documented history of his persecution by the authorities for his public activities. The Belarusian authorities must drop all charges related to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and open the trial to the public and media." said Aisha Zhang, Amnesty International's Chief Executive Officer for Belarus.
Palienka had previously been sentenced to two years in prison for "using violence against a government official" and released a year ago. But on March 20, 2019, he was arrested again on suspicion of "malicious hooliganism" - allegedly spraying a pepper spray in the face of a man who made a remark to him. The accused himself claims to have done so in self-defense.
He was subsequently charged with three other criminal charges: "insulting a government official", "inciting racial, religious or other social hatred or enmity" and "desecrating buildings and damaging property". These accusations are related to graffiti, which Polienko allegedly painted. Amnesty International believes that the authorities are persecuting Polienko for his activism.