Arrested on Ryanair landing: Lukashenko critic asks for clemency in custody

In May 2021, Sofia Sapega was arrested in a sensational action in Minsk.

Arrested on Ryanair landing: Lukashenko critic asks for clemency in custody

In May 2021, Sofia Sapega was arrested in a sensational action in Minsk. The Russian is a critic of the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko. Now Sapega begs for mercy and admits "stupidity". The conditions under which the atonement comes about are doubtful.

In Belarus, a prominent government critic has asked ruler Alexander Lukashenko for a pardon after a year in prison. Russian-born Sofia Sapega was arrested in May last year when a European passenger plane was forced to land in Minsk.

According to a report by the BBC's Russian-language service, she wrote in the plea for clemency that her oppositional activity was due to "youth and stupidity". In the meantime, she has "completely understood illegality and illegitimacy". It remained unclear under what conditions the letter was written in detention. Sapega was sentenced to six years in prison by the judiciary in the authoritarian country in May for running an opposition channel on the Telegram messenger service.

Her arrest - together with her then partner Roman Protassewitsch - caused an international sensation. The two were on a flight within Europe in a Ryanair plane that was forced to land over Belarusian territory. The EU therefore imposed an airspace ban on Belarus.

Protasevich, former editor-in-chief of the opposition news channel Nexta, had previously withdrawn his criticism of Lukashenko, the long-term ruler, from prison and apologized. Observers attribute the supposed change of heart to massive pressure from the authorities. Lukashenko was elected president for the sixth time in the summer of 2020, which led to nationwide protests. The election is not recognized internationally because of suspected manipulation.

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