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A “North Korea at the heart of Europe”, Belarusians in exile denounce repression

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Several hundred Belarusians in exile demonstrated on Saturday against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, amid international scandal caused by the interception by Minsk, on May 23, of a European airliner and the arrest of a Belarusian opponent who was on board the aircraft.

Several hundred Belarusians in exile demonstrated on Saturday (May 29th) in the cities of Vilnius, Lithuania and Warsaw in Poland, to demand the release of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, arrested Sunday after Belarus intercepted him. Ryanair airliner on board which they linked Athens to Vilnius.

In Warsaw, the mother of journalist Roman Protassevich, Natalia Protassevich, called during a rally called “all EU countries and the United States” to help “to free Roman and (his partner) Sofia, as well as any other imprisoned person “. “We want to live in a free country, in a country where everyone has the right to express their convictions,” added his father Dmitri.

A “North Korea at the heart of Europe”

Protesters chanted “Long live Belarus!” and held up placards with slogans such as “Freedom for Belarus”, or denouncing a “North Korea in the heart of Europe”.

Roman Protassevich, a 26-year-old Belarusian journalist in exile, and his Russian partner Sofia Sapéga, 23, were

For her part, the Belarusian opposition leader in exile, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, on Saturday promised to continue to fight during a rally of about 150 demonstrators in the Lithuanian capital.

“We are here today to express our determination to continue the struggle for freedom. We will not back down,” said Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. She also recalled in a tweet on Saturday that her husband “was imprisoned by the regime exactly one year ago”.

Along with the opponent, thousands of Belarusians have fled to Lithuania since authorities stepped up a harsh crackdown on dissent last year. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya stood for the presidential election in place of her imprisoned husband, and opponents of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime believe that she was the real winner of the ballot.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya participates in a demonstration in front of the Belarusian Embassy in Lithuania in Vilnius on May 29, 2021, demanding the freedom of Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega.
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya participates in a demonstration in front of the Belarusian Embassy in Lithuania in Vilnius on May 29, 2021, demanding the freedom of Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega. © Petras Malukas, AFP

At the same time, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had been received since Friday in Sochi by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, his main support in the face of the protest which wavered his power last fall.

A coalition of 27 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and several European countries, for their part called in a statement on Saturday for the release of journalist Roman Protassevich, criticizing the interception of the Ryanair flight as a “shocking act and unprecedented “, which further constitutes” a frontal assault on press freedom “.

With AFP and AP


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