Raman Pratasevich was awarded the international Ion Raţiu Democracy Award; Lithuanian and Polish authorities fear for the safety of Belarusian refugees; “Persecuted, jailed, destroyed” – The Guardian on the situation in Belarus
30 May 2021 | Voice of Belarus
Raman Pratasevich was awarded the Ion Raţiu Democracy Award
On 28 May, in London, the Raţiu Family Charitable Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars have announced the winner of the Ion Raţiu Democracy Award – the Belarusian blogger and activist Raman Pratasevich. He was detained on 23 May 2021 at the Minsk airport after the forced landing of a Ryanair aircraft and is now in the KGB pre-trial detention center.
Pratasevich was awarded not only the Prize, but also the 2021 Ion Raţiu Scholarship for Democracy.
He will have the opportunity to visit the Wilson Center in Washington DC and work there with politicians, the media and the scientific community for three months.
The head of the European Parliament proposed placing a photo of Pratasevich at all EU airports. David Maria Sassoli noted the “strong and unanimous” reaction of the European Union to the landing of Ryanair and the detention of Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega. He insists on continuing pressure on Lukashenko until the release of Pratasevich and Sapega.
“We don’t know what the regime is capable of”: Lithuanian and Polish authorities fear for Belarusian refugees
The Lithuanian authorities have proposed to allocate more money from the state budget to protect Belarusian politicians and refugees who live in Lithuania. And the Belarusians themselves were asked to “refrain from posting personal information on social networks”.
Polish officials also asked Belarusians to be careful. As Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński said, “We do not know what the regime is capable of.”
“Persecuted, jailed, destroyed” – The Guardian on the situation in Belarus
According to The Guardian, one of the most respected newspapers in the world, Belarusian journalists and activists have been victims of the most wide-reaching persecution since the times of the Soviet Union. The mass arrests and widespread torture that began last summer and led to a steady stream of raids and trials have dispelled any illusions that Lukashenko would one day loosen his grip on power or allow the country to open up.
One of the political prisoners, Vitold Ashurak, who was sentenced to five years in prison for participating in peaceful demonstrations, died in prison of a heart attack, according to officials. However, when Ashurak’s body was returned to his family, his head was completely covered in bandages – only his mouth was visible. A month before his death, Ashurak reported that political prisoners were forced to wear yellow badges on their clothes that identified them as extremists. The government released a video made shortly before his death in which he passed out, apparently in solitary confinement, and hit his head. Why he lost consciousness remains a mystery, although some of those close to him believe he might have been beaten or tortured.
Independent media are also under unprecedented pressure. One of the country’s leading news sites, TUT.BY, was blocked and at least eight employees were detained, allegedly as part of a tax evasion investigation. The case is viewed by many as politically motivated. “We are being persecuted, we are being jailed, we are being destroyed,” said an anonymous Belarusian journalist.
The authorities’ hunt for another independent media outlet
On the afternoon of 30 May 2021, Hrodna.life editor-in-chief Aliaksei Shota was detained in Hrodna when he was at home with his children. Later, Aliaksei was released until a trial takes place. He is being charged under Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code (“dissemination of extremist information”) for the fact that one of the materials on the website posted an image with a watermark of a Telegram channel which had been recognized as extremist by the authorities. Aliaksei’s apartment was searched; they took away a laptop, three old hard drives and a white-red-white umbrella.
It seems quite perplexing that the police released a video about Shota’s arrest two days before his actual arrest on 28 May 2021.
On the same evening, security officials were waiting in a van in front of the house of Hrodna.life special editor Iryna Novik. Iryna has not been arrested yet.
In winter, the editor-in-chief of the media outlet was fined a total of about 5,000 US dollars for the fact that the police found several links to an “extremist” Telegram channel on their website.