Stepan Putio, a 22-year-old Belarusian opponent in exile in Warsaw, knows Roman Protassevich well, the 26-year-old journalist arrested in Minsk on Sunday 23 May after Belarus hijacked the airliner connecting Athens to Vilnius. It was with him that he co-founded the Belarusian opposition channel Nexta, piloted from Poland. This media, accessible on Telegram encrypted messaging, played a key role in the popular uprising that followed the fraudulent re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko on August 9, 2020, by allowing protesters to organize and disseminate images of repression.
Over the months, the influence of Stepan Poutilo and Roman Protassevich grew so great that the regime added their names to the terrorist list in November 2020 – a crime punishable by death in Belarus, the last country of Europe to apply it. In an interview with World, Stepan Putio (also known as Stepan Svetlov) calls on the international community to react firmly to the repressive machine of Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 27 years.
How did you react after the hijacking by Belarus and the arrest of Roman Protassevich?
It was completely unexpected. Roman hadn’t worked with us for several months, but I was still in contact with him. Shortly before his arrest, we exchanged messages and everything was fine. He was active, in a good mood, there was no problem. One could never have imagined that, in a normal European country, an airplane could be captured in this way. It is a real kidnapping, which took place on European soil.
When the regime put us on the terrorist list in November 2020, Roman and I, we understood that it had no limits. He makes terror reign. This is unacceptable in the modern world.
What do you expect from the international community?
I really hope that she will react, in particular the European Union and the United States, and force Lukashenko to stop this repression. For eight months, we have been promised help, but in reality there is no tangible help. What happened with Roman forced the international community to take more important measures, but we must go even further, isolate the regime, cut all diplomatic, commercial, economic contacts with him, and recognize him as a terrorist.
What do you think of the video broadcast on Monday, in which Roman Protassevich says he confessed?
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