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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Jailed Belarusian Journalist Raman Pratasevich Appears at Press Conference

By VOA News June 14, 2021

A jailed Belarusian journalist has made another public appearance during a news conference in Minsk Monday.

Raman Pratasevich, who was arrested in May after his flight was forced to land in Belarus, said he was fine and had not been beaten.

Belarusian authorities deny the plane was diverted so Pratasevich could be arrested, saying instead it was because of a bomb threat. Reports say no bomb was found. The plane had been flying over Belarusian airspace at the time. As a result of the incident, several airlines have rerouted flights to avoid traveling over Belarus.

"Everything is fine with me. Nobody beat me, nobody touched me," Pratasevich said. "I understand the damage I have caused not only to the state, but also to the country. Now, I want to do everything in my power to rectify this situation."

This was not the first time Pratasevich has appeared in public since his arrest.

Last month, he admitted to participating in a plot to oust President Alexander Lukashenko by organizing riots. Pratasevich also took back criticism of the Belarusian leader, who defended the diversion of the aircraft as necessary to protect the Belarusian people.

Pratasevich appeared with four officials, two of them wearing uniforms, which led opposition members to claim the appearance was made under duress.

"This is not a press conference but a scene of either Kafka or Orwell," Franak Viańćorka, a senior adviser to exiled opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, wrote on Twitter, referring to late authors Frank Kafka and George Orwell.

Pratasevich has a large following on the social media platform Telegram, where until last year, he operated the opposition channel Nexta.

The European Union and United States have called for Pratasevich to be released.

Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, claimed victory in last August's elections, but Belarusian opposition leaders and many Western countries have called the election rigged.

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