Russian national Sofia Sapega remanded in custody in Belarus for two months
Russian national Sofia Sapega has been remanded in custody in Belarus for two months, her lawyer Alexander Filanovich told RBC on May 25. Sapega was arrested in Minsk on May 23 along with Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, after being removed from a Ryanair flight that was forced to land in Belarus.
According to the lawyer, Sapega was interrogated today and charged with a criminal offense. In turn, she was remanded in custody in a KGB pre-trial detention center for two months. Filanovich added that the Belarusian Investigative Committee’s Main Investigative Directorate has been put in charge of investigating the criminal case.
“The lawyer signed a non-disclosure agreement. Adequate legal assistance has and will continue to be provided to her [Sapega],” Filanovich said.
Earlier in the day on May 25, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Sofia Sapega is suspected “of committing crimes under several articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus during the period from August to September 2020.” The foreign ministry didn’t offer any further details. Later, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the Belarusian authorities had granted permission for the Russian consul to meet with Sapega. At this point, she had already been in custody in Belarus for two days.
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. However, Sapega’s mother said that her daughter wasn’t involved in the demonstrations in Belarus and that she was in Lithuania at the time of these events.
Update. Later in the day, a pro-government Telegram channel published a video of Sofia Sapega in custody in Belarus. In the video, she gives her personal details and says that she edited the Telegram channel “Black Book of Belarus,” “which publishes the personal information of officials from internal affairs bodies.” Sofia’s mother, Anna Dudich, told RT that she was “shocked” by the video of her daughter. “Either I’m confused, or it’s a dream, or it’s a setup,” Dudich said.
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.