Location of Belarusian journalist removed from plane still unknown – Tsikhanouskaya


VILNIUS (Reuters) – The whereabouts of a Belarusian dissident journalist remain unknown after he was removed from a Ryanair passenger plane that was forced to land in Minsk on Sunday, Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on Monday.

Western countries denounced Minsk’s action as “state piracy” and European leaders threatened on Monday to limit international air traffic over Belarus and possibly restrict its ground transport.

They called for the immediate release of the 26-year-old journalist and blogger, Roman Protasevich, who had been travelling from Greece to Lithuania.

“We still don’t know where he (Protasevich) is, and in what state. There is a high probability that he is undergoing torture by the special services at this very minute,” Tsikhanouskaya told reporters in Vilnius.

Protasevich’s female companion, Sofia Sapega, who was also detained in Minsk on Sunday, is now in the Okrestina prison in the Belarusian capital, Tsikhanouskaya said, citing reports from her relatives.

Sapega is a Russian citizen but the Russian consul in Minsk refused to help her, Tsikhanouskaya said.

Tsikhanouskaya has been based in Vilnius since fleeing Belarus following a disputed presidential election last August which her supporters say was stolen from her.

She said on Monday she was discussing the detention of Protasevich with a representative of U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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