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Belarus Sentences the Russian Law Student Who Was a Dissident’s Girlfriend to Six Years in Prison

A court docket in Belarus on Friday sentenced a Russian legislation pupil whose boyfriend is a outstanding dissident to 6 years in a penal colony, practically a 12 months after the nation’s authorities diverted a industrial flight to Minsk with a purpose to arrest them.

In a statement, the Belarusian court docket mentioned it had discovered the coed, Sofia Sapega, responsible of inciting social hatred and illegally disseminating personal data. She had been underneath home arrest and was taken into custody within the courtroom to start a jail sentence.

Final Might, Ms. Sapega, 24, was touring from Greece to Lithuania together with her romantic accomplice, Roman Protasevich, a outstanding opposition determine in Belarus, when the Belarusian air visitors management used a false bomb risk to divert their aircraft to Minsk, the place they had been each arrested.

The arrests sparked worldwide outrage and Western international locations imposed sanctions on Belarus. Their detentions got here after months of avenue protests that didn’t depose Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, who is usually described as “Europe’s final dictator.”

Mr. Protasevich, 27, was the editor of the NEXTA channel on the Telegram messaging app, which had emerged as a driving power for mass protests towards Mr. Lukashenko.

Since his arrest, Mr. Protasevich, an outspoken opponent of the federal government for years, has made appearances at televised information conferences to voice admiration for Mr. Lukashenko. He has mentioned he was not coerced to reverse his stance, however opposition leaders say his statements had been made underneath duress. He has but to be tried or sentenced, and his authorized standing is unclear.

Lots of of 1000’s of Belarusians protested towards Mr. Lukashenko’s rule after he was re-elected in a contested election in August 2020. To remain in energy, the embattled president resorted to savage violence, together with his safety brokers arresting and beating 1000’s of individuals.

Mr. Lukashenko additionally turned to his ally, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who declared his help for the Belarusian chief and mentioned he was able to ship safety reinforcements. These strikes had been regarded by many analysts as a recreation changer that made positive native authorities officers in Belarus stayed in line.

Mr. Putin’s help got here with a worth, nonetheless, forcing Mr. Lukashenko to desert his typical recreation of enjoying Russia and the West towards one another. Some consultants have argued that Mr. Lukashenko’s survival as president in 2020 paved the best way for Mr. Putin to make use of Belarus to launch assaults towards Ukraine earlier this 12 months.

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