What danger can a 26-year-old journalist pose to a dictator to intercept the plane he is on, triggering an avalanche of international condemnations and sanctions? Criticizing the regime is what Roman Protasevich, blogger arrested by Alexander Lukashenko, dictator of Belarus, had been doing for years on Sunday (23).
At the end of 2019, he was working in his own country, for various independent media or media opposed to the authoritarian leader. But it was when he left Belarus that Protasevich began to gain the dictator’s attention more strongly, resulting in the risky hijacking of the Ryanair flight.
The blogger said in a video published in 2011 that he decided to fight the Lukashenko regime after witnessing a brutal crackdown on the residents of Minsk who “applauded the protests”.
“Five huge riot police from Omon beat women. A mother with her child was thrown into the van. It was disgusting. After that, everything fundamentally changed,” he said on the recording.
For attending the protest, Protasevich, then 16, was arrested and then expelled from the science high school he attended. His mother was only able to re-enroll him in a regular school after resigning from her teaching post at the Army Academy.
Further arrests and conflicts at the university ruined his chances of obtaining a journalism degree, but Protassevich was a reporter for several media and for ten months he helped colleagues in Poland create and energize Nexta, a information channel in a messaging application.
At the end of 2019, under increasing pressure from the dictatorship against him and other activists, the journalist fled Belarus for good and became one of Nexta’s main editors in Warsaw.
When the demonstrators took to the streets after the elections last August, the channel escaped the regime’s attempt to demobilize them, making it crucial for the organization of the grand marches. The dictatorship blocked the internet, but Nexta was still active, providing advice on where the riot police were, times of action, news and documents. Already passionate about his role at Nexta, Lukashenko’s discontent with the journalist grew when he left Poland in September last year and moved to Lithuania, where opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaia went into exile.
Two months later, he was indicted by the Belarusian regime and placed on the list of terrorists of the KGB, the country’s secret service. The texts below are Protassevich reports specially given to Folha by independent radio station Euroradio – they were translated from Belarus by a translator from Minsk who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. Written in 2019, just before the blogger leaves his country, they make it possible to understand why Lukashenko is trying to silence Protassevich.
Grodno resident has part of his leg amputated after drunken detention
Roman Protassevich (original text)
Minsk, August 23, 2019
Dzianis (Denis) Lukianau, father of several children from Grodno, was hospitalized after being taken into custody during the SunDay car festival.
His sister Daria told Euroradio that the 36-year-old was arrested by riot police (Omon) after the festival. Since he was drunk, the officers decided to take him to the police station. Along the way, according to Daria, Lukianau was taken to the forest, where “they used him to train special techniques.”
“On the way to the police station, the car stopped near the forest. Denis was removed from the car and taken to the woods, behind the trees. And there, suddenly, a carousel went off: one by one the riot cops started practicing their tricks, all joking and praising each other, saying ‘look at this one!’ It lasted tens of minutes. It is clear that he was beaten by professionals because there were no scratches or bruises, ”he said.
Lukianau was then handed over to the police station officer Sergei Karpuk, who knew exactly what was going on. When we tried to contact him, it was impossible: he had gone on vacation.
A few weeks later, Lukianau was hospitalized – muscle necrosis had developed in his leg. Doctors performed six operations and his leg was amputated. Now the infection is spreading to internal organs, and it is not known if it will survive, according to Daria.
He waited for the pain to pass alone
The traditional Sunday automobile festival took place in Grodno on July 20. Cars are the big hobby of mechanic Dzianis Lukianau and he couldn’t miss the event.
He arrived at SunDay with a friend and his girlfriend, and the two got a little drunk. Riot police overseeing the festival arrested him for drunkenness in a public place.
The police station issued a police report citing Article 17.1 of the Administrative Code and imposed a fine of 0.2 base unit, corresponding to 5 Belarusian rubles and 10 kopecks. [cerca de R$ 11]. It was then sent to a “recovery station” [na Belarus, presos por embriaguez ficam detidos nesses locais até estarem sóbrios], where he spent the night.
Lukianau went to work. His legs hurt a lot, but there were no noticeable bruises. So, says Daria, he decided to wait until the pain went away on its own and didn’t report the beatings. Three days later, bruises began to appear on the buttocks. The man thought they were going to leave and stayed home. But the case turned out to be much more serious than expected. Two weeks later, the necrosis began. Lukianau was taken to hospital.
He will never be able to walk normally again
His condition deteriorated rapidly. According to Daria, within two weeks the brother underwent six surgeries and had part of his left buttock amputated, but the necrosis was not ruled out. Medics say Lukianau’s injuries are typical of a high-speed car crash, when the victim is stuck in the equipment with his legs crushed for too long, unable to move.
“Denis’s muscles not only began to pull away from his bones, but as a result of this process the infection spread to other organs. Now the doctors examine it every day and no longer make predictions, ”explains Daria.
“Even if his leg is saved, he will certainly never be able to walk normally. But the scariest thing is that the infection is already above the waist and about to affect the intestines and stomach, where it can quickly spread throughout the body. And he can die.
Lawyer, Daria has already prepared requests for the prosecutor’s office, the commission of inquiry [semelhante à polícia civil] and the Ministry of the Interior [responsável por segurança]. The Grodno police press office told Euroradio it was not aware of the case. According to them, they would make comments on Monday [três dias depois da publicação do texto].
Daria doesn’t understand how her brother was involved in this tragedy: “I don’t think he can say anything rude to anyone. He has a family with three children and has never said a bad word in his life. Yes, he was drunk, but he is one of those people who, when he drinks, never gets aggressive. Rather, he becomes silent, calm, says he loves everyone and so on.
Euroradio will continue to follow this case.
Zmitser Palienka tried to slit his wrists in court
Roman Protasevich and Masha Kolesnikova (original text)
Minsk, October 17, 2019
Anarchist Zmitser (Dmitri) Palienka attempted to slice his wrists in court when he learned that his hearing would be held behind closed doors. The trial in the Palienka case is taking place at the Minsk City Court. According to a Euroradio report on the scene, he was immediately expelled from the courtroom, but the activists who came to support him refused to leave the scene.
Despite the incident, the trial continues, in another room. The activists try in vain to enter the room and shout words of support for Palienka. “The trial of Dmitri Palienka is another act in a scrupulously documented history of persecution by the authorities. The Belarusian authorities must drop all charges relating to the peaceful exercise of Palienka’s right to exercise his freedom of expression and open the trial to the public and the media, ”said Aisha Zhang, Director General of Amnesty International in Belarus .
Palienka had previously been sentenced to two years in prison for “using violence against a public official” and was released last year. But on March 20, 2019, he was arrested again on suspicion of “willful vandalism”, allegedly for spraying pepper spray on the face of a criticizing man. The accused claims to have acted in self-defense.
He was then charged with three other crimes: “insulting a public official”, “inciting enmity or hatred for racial, religious or other social causes” and “degradation of property”. that the authorities persecute him for his activism.