The parents of the Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich are seriously concerned about the fate of their son, who was arrested after his flight was diverted through Minsk. From their hometown of Warsaw, where they fled from Lukashenkos regime, they fear for his mental and physical health.
The Polish capital Warsaw is the center of Lukashenko-critical Belarusians in exile. From there, they try to give help to protesters who have been abused by the regime.
The critical journalist Roman Protasevich also lives in Warsaw, just like his parents. “My last contact with my son is on May 22,” says his mother. “We just did each other.”
According to her, they were talking about “ordinary things “like questions about the holiday. That was the last normal conversation. “On May 23, when I was appreying Roman in the morning about how he was and what he was going to do that day, he stopped responding.”
That same afternoon, they read a disturbing message on social media. “A plane on its way to Vilnius would have a bomb on board. Right through my head the panic that my son was in that plane.”
A day later, they see their son for the first time. In a video, from Belarus. They think they can tell from his face that hes been tortured. “They want him to lose his militancy through long interrogations,” says his father. “And that he can no longer think logically and confess guilt.”
They also want to put pressure on them, the parents, according to him. “Because if you dont know whats happening to your loved ones, its horrible. And for so long.”
His parents immediately understand why their son was brought to Belarus with such a major operation. “Thats very simple: because hes never afraid to tell the truth. Because he brought the news and let us, the Belarusian people, witness how many people went out to the streets.”
Despite their worries, they are also proud:
The parents hope that the Netherlands will increase the pressure on the Belarusian regime to get their son out soon. “Every moment hes behind bars can have terrible consequences,” says his mother. “Its a huge threat. Thats what were afraid of.”
Relationship between Putin and Lukashenko greatly deteriorated
Bob Deen is an expert in Eastern Europe at Clingendael Institute and closely follows the meeting between Putin and Lukashenko. He points out how the relationship between the two leaders has been strongly cooled over the past few years.
“ Lukashenko prefers to eat in two ways,” he says to Nieuwsuur. “Trade with the EU, cooperation with Russia. But lately he has not been able to do it well on both sides.”
The once-seated autocrat has overplayed his hand, says Deen. “Make no mistake, Lukashenko is a smart man. But starting last year, he seems to have started making mistakes. Corona was greatly underestimated by him. Nor did he see the opposition leader Tikhanovskaya as a great danger. That was an error of judgment.”
Moreover, if Lukashenko is forced to leave the field for someone else, that is not necessarily good news for the EU at all, according to Dane. “The opposition in the country is, to a large extent, pro-Russia. The protests are not pro-EU at all, as in Ukraine, but purely anti-Lukashenko.”
Moreover, he considers that Lukashenko is not likely to leave the field in the short term. “But the fact that he has to step aside for someone else in the longer term is increasingly plausible.”