Thursday, June 17

Demonstrations against Belarusian President Lukashenko amid outrage over plane diversion

Protests broke out in several European cities on Saturday against the intensification of the repression of the political opposition by the authoritarian state of Belarus.

The protesters gathered in Warsaw, Poland, to call for tougher sanctions against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his regime.

Among those present was Natalia Protasevich, mother of Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, who was arrested along with her partner Sofia Sapega last Sunday after the passenger flight they were traveling on was diverted by Belarus to Minsk.

“For freedom of expression, my son, Sofia and others are in prison,” said Natalia Protasevich. “I want Lukashenka to think about this. I am not ashamed to ask all the EU countries, to ask the United States to help us.”

About 100 people also gathered in the Ukrainian city of Kiev, some of the participants hit a portrait of Lukashenko in slippers and a protester carried a poster comparing the Belarusian prime minister to Adolf Hitler.

Belarusians living in Kiev said they could protest more freely there. One protester, Egor, told Euronews: “We don’t have the opportunity to have such protests at home.

“So, people decided to draw the attention of other countries, to say that we all live on one planet, in the same Europe.”

Russian prime minister rules out ‘outburst of emotion’

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Lukashenko on Saturday to discuss closer ties between the two countries, and Putin described the West’s reaction to the interception of the plane as “a burst of emotion.”

Belarus claims the diversion was triggered by a bomb threat, but European leaders have denounced it as akin to air piracy.

Massive pro-democracy protests swept through Belarus last summer after the official results of the 2020 presidential elections gave Lukashenko 80 percent of the vote, giving him a sixth term.

More than 30,000 people were arrested during the uprising that followed, while opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya sought refuge in Lithuania.

On Saturday, several dozen people in the Belarusian capital of Minsk also marched down a main street carrying opposition banners on the anniversary of the arrest of Tsikhanouskaya’s husband.

Belarusian broadcaster suspended by European consortium

The executive board of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) voted to suspend the Belarusian national broadcaster over “serious and quite exceptional concerns.”

In a statement released on Friday, the public service media alliance said it had been “closely monitoring the suppression of press freedom in Belarus” by Belteleradio (BTRC).

The Belarusian state broadcaster has two weeks to respond before the suspension takes effect. EBU cited “special alarm” over the recent “broadcast of interviews apparently obtained under duress” – a likely reference to the broadcast this week of two separate videos showing Pratasevich and Sapega in custody.

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