Belarus jails Russian student seized off downed Ryanair flight

Belarus jails Russian student seized off downed Ryanair flight

A Russian law student detained after her Ryanair flight from Greece was forced to land in Belarus last May has been given a six-year jail sentence.

Sophia Sapega and her activist partner were flying to Lithuania when the plane was forced to land by a fighter jet, using a bomb threat as an excuse.

The act was labelled as air piracy by the international community and the European Union banned Belarusian airlines from its airports and airspace.

The Russian citizen was convicted of inciting social hatred and other crimes.

The court found Sapega guilty of illegally collecting and distributing personal data and fined around US$65,000.

Sapega’s channel on the Telegram messaging app exposed the Belarusian regime’s brutality since the presidential election in September 2020.

The election handed dictator Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term with a claimed 80 per cent of the vote.

Roman Protasevich, Sapega’s partner, edited another Telegram channel, Nexta, which helped organise anti-Lukashenko protests in Minsk.

Nexta was labelled “an extremist site”, according to the official Tass news agency.

Protasevich has been under pre-trial house arrest since June 2021.

He has regularly appeared on state-run television and other platforms, where he has “confessed” to organising mass riots in Minsk.

The 2020 protests forced Lukashenko into increasing dependence on Vladimir Putin, who has bankrolled the Belarusian economy and provided cut-price oil and gas.

In return, Belarus allowed its territory to be used by Russian forces to invade Ukraine.

More sanctions

Belarus and Russia will face new UK sanctions that target £1.7 billion of trade in response to Putin’s war in Ukraine.

New import tariffs, which include platinum and palladium exports, bring the value of products subjected to full or partial import and export sanctions since the February invasion to more than £4 billion, according to the UK government.

Export bans “intend to hit more than £250 million worth of goods in sectors of the Russian economy most dependent on UK goods, targeting key materials such as chemicals, plastics, rubber and machinery”, said the UK’s Department for International Trade.

Trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “We are determined to do our utmost to thwart Putin’s aims in Ukraine and undermine his illegal invasion, which has seen barbaric acts perpetrated against the Ukrainian people. This far-reaching package of sanctions will inflict further damage on the Russian war machine.”


Roman Protasevich and Sophia Sapega make their presumably forced confessions. Picture credit: YouTube

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