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Russian national detained after forced Ryanair landing in Minsk may face criminal charges in Belarus

Russian national Sofia Sapega — who was arrested on May 23 along with Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich after being removed from a Ryanair flight that was forced to land in Minsk — may face criminal charges in Belarus.

On May 25, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists that Sapega is suspected “of committing crimes under several articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus during the period from August to September 2020.” 

Zakharova added that the Belarusian authorities are holding Sofia Sapega in custody for 72 hours, after which a court ruling “will be made on choosing measures of restraint or releasing [her].” 

The Russian Foreign Ministry didn’t provide any details about the alleged crimes that Sapega stands accused of committing.

Update. Later in the day on May 25, the Russian consul was granted permission to visit Sofia Sapega. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the meeting will take place “in the near future.”

On the morning of May 24, the Russian consul met with S. A. Sapega’s parents. He informed them about the actions taken by the embassy and recommended […] a lawyer with extensive experience protecting the rights of Russian citizens, who has already started work. We look forward to receiving permission for a consular visit with S. A. Sapega in the very near future.

Russian Foreign Ministry

On May 23, a Ryanair passenger flight travelling from Athens to Vilnius was forced to make an emergency landing at the Minsk National Airport. This took place following reports from the Belarusian authorities of a bomb threat on board the flight (this later proved false). Belarus sent an MiG-29 fighter jet to escort the passenger plane to Minsk.

After the landing, the Belarusian authorities detained two passengers from the plane — Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, who is a Russian citizen. The remaining passengers from the flight were allowed to continue their journey to Vilnius after a seven-hour delay. Many European countries believe the Belarusian authorities hijacked the passenger plane in order to arrest Protasevich.

August to September 2020 was the peak of the opposition protests that erupted in Belarus after the country’s election authorities announced that Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) had won his sixth consecutive presidential election. 

Backstory

‘A case of state-sponsored hijacking’ Here’s what we know about the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk and the arrest of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich

Backstory

‘A case of state-sponsored hijacking’ Here’s what we know about the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk and the arrest of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich

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