Belarus Foreign Minister Meets Lavrov On Case Of Pratasevich's Russian Girlfriend
By RFE/RL June 18, 2021
Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makey has met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow to discuss the status of Russian citizen Sofia Sapega -- the girlfriend of the detained Belarusian opposition activist Raman Pratasevich.
Lavrov told journalists on May 18 that Makey informed him about the legal cases in Belarus against Sapega and another Russian citizen, Yegor Dudnikov.
Dudnikov was arrested in Minsk in May after joining mass protests against Belarus's authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
"The Russian Embassy in Minsk keeps this matter under special control," Lavrov said, adding that he hopes the situation with Sapega and Dudnikov "will be solved soon." He did not elaborate.
Belarusian authorities on May 23 pulled Sapega and Pratasevich from a civilian airliner meant to fly from Athens to Vilnius after a Belarusian military plane diverted the flight and forced it to land in Minsk.
The diversion of the Ryanair flight by the Belarusian warplane has been condemned internationally as a state hijacking and has prompted Western sanctions against Belarus.
But a Belarusian court on June 14 rejected Sapega's appeal to be released, ruling that her arrest was legal under Belarusian law.
Sapega's lawyer, Alyaksandr Filanovich, says criminal charges have been filed against her. But he has not elaborated, saying he is under a court order not to release details about the case to the public.
The Vyasna human rights center in Minsk says Belarusian authorities have charged Sapega with organizing and preparing activities that violate civil order, organizing "mass disturbances," and inciting hatred.
In an interview with the Kommersant newspaper in late May, Makey said Lukashenka could decide to pardon Sapega or transfer her to Russia to serve a sentence.
The European Union has responded to the diversion of the Ryanair flight between two EU countries by blocking Belarusian airlines from EU airports and airspace. Europe's aviation regulator also has urged other airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.
Russia has backed Lukashenka's regime in the case.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Lukashenka on May 28 -- pushing for further integration between Moscow and Minsk within a so-called Union State.
The decades-old bilateral agreement envisages a union with closer political, economic, and security ties between Russia and Belarus.
With reporting by TASS and Interfax
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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