Belarusians increasingly cornered after EU halt flights

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Kiev, Ukraine (AP) – Fear of repression in Belarus increased after the arrest of dissident journalists, forcing the plane to detour to Minsk.

The land border is already tightly regulated, and the European Union has banned flights from Belarus after an airliner moved to Minsk earlier this week and arrested dissident journalists on board. ..

This leaves the Belarusian opposition few options out of the dictatorship of President Alexander Lukashenko.

“When we close the border, Belarus turns into rotten tin cans. We are being held hostage, ”said Taziana Hatsura, who heads an advocacy group that helps those released from prison adjust to their lives.

“Authorities have stepped up the crackdown in recent months to fuel the climate of horror,” she told The Associated Press.

According to Hatsura Yavorska, most of her friends and colleagues have been detained, chased away and brutalized, and many have fled Belarus.

She was sentenced to 10 days in prison after staging a photo exhibition about healthcare workers in a coronavirus pandemic, which authorities have decided to lean against. She could be jailed for three years. I am facing a complaint.

Lukashenko, who ruled the former Soviet nation of 9.3 million people for more than a quarter of a century, has faced unprecedented protests after being re-elected for the sixth term in a vote in August 2020 He responded to the protest with a fierce crackdown in August 2020, where more than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands beaten.

Hatsura-Yavorska said he was put in ice for two days without a mattress after his arrest last month and was forced to wake up every two hours at night.

The authorities released her ten days later, on condition that she did not leave town, until she was investigated for “organizing acts offensive to public order and morality”.

“Who wants to stay in such a country?” She said on the phone. “The authorities divided all citizens into supporters and enemies and treated us accordingly.”

Hatsura-Yavorska’s Ukrainian husband was ordered to leave Belarus with his 9-year-old son and was banned from returning for 10 years.

“They used their son to intimidate me. They beat me during interrogation, threatened to put me in jail and eventually expelled me from the country, ”Volodimir Yavorski told The Associated Press in Kiev. Said to. “I couldn’t imagine falling to hell in the middle of Europe. Belarus has been closed to us and millions of Belarusians have been held hostage. “

He remains in contact with his wife on the internet, but fears the Belarusian authorities will tighten regulations on the matter.

“Citizen protests continue, so authorities have closed borders, organizations, websites and anything they can reach,” he said. “They are turning Belarus into a hot land.”

Belarus tightened border regulations in December. Crossover applicants must explain reasons such as work, medical care, education, etc. and can only do it once every 6 months.

A Belarusian air traffic controller ordered a reaction crew to land on Sunday, and then a Ryanair plane from Greece to Lithuania was boarded by dissident journalist Raman Platasevic. After that, authorities arrested Platasevic, who ran a channel for the messaging app used to organize a protest against Lukaschenko.

EU leaders accused this of being similar to air piracy and responded by removing Belarusian airlines from the bloc’s airspace and airports.

“The air boycott not only hurt the administration, but also counterattacked hostile forces hoping to leave the country,” said Arthom Schreveman, an independent political analyst based in Minsk.

Belarusian airlines are prohibited in EU airspace, but are allowed to fly to other destinations.

“People are about to leave and those who can go to Europe are trying to do so,” said a man who arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia, by plane from Belarus.

For fear of retaliation, travelers who sought to reveal only their first name Anatoly worried about their own journey as the destination of Ryanair’s plane changed, saying: “People cannot guarantee their future. , The future of children. “

Another Belarusian traveler, Arena, has asked her to hide her first and last name, but those who can afford to leave Belarus do so, as she describes the government’s “brutal” response to the protest. I told him to do it.

In the August vote, the main opposition challenger, Sviatrana Chikanoskaya, tightened sanctions against the EU and increased pressure on the Lukashenko administration, Interpol and the International Civil Aviation Organization to Belarus. Asked to expel.

But she also demanded that the country’s land border be opened.

“I understand that the EU’s decision to stop flying over Belarus is a matter of security for all Europeans,” he said, fleeing to neighboring Lithuania under pressure from the government soon after the elections. “But we demand that we open the border for the free movement of Belarusian citizens, because we allow the administration to turn our country into a prison of 9 million people. Because you can’t

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Follow all of AP’s Belarus stories at https://apnews.com/hub/Belarus.



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