MINSK, May 23. /TASS/. Belarus’ interior ministry has confirmed the detention of a co-founder of the Nexta Telegram channel, deemed as extremist in Belarus, Roman Protasevich.
"Founder of the Nexta Telegram channel Protasevich has been detained at the Minsk airport," the ministry’s organized crime and corruption department wrote on its Telegram channel.
Protasevich was onboard a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius that made an emergency landing at Minsk’s airport after receiving a bomb call. According to the airport’s press service, the incident was reported by the plane’s pilots. The plane landed safely, no explosive devices were found inside.
The Nexta Telegram channel was recognized as extremist by Belarus’ Supreme Court on October 20, 2020. It founder Stepan Putilo and former editor-in-chief Roman Protasevich were charged with organizing riots and instigating social hatred. In February 2021, Belarus issues an extradition request for Putilo and Protasevich to Poland. The country’s State Security Committee (KGB) put the two men on the list of persons involved in terrorism. Under Belarus’ laws, Protasevich may face 15 years behind bars.
Protasevich and Putilo founded the Nexta channel on YouTube in 2015 and launched a channel of this name in Telegram, which became one of the venues for President Alexander Lukashenko’s opponents following the August 9, 2020 presidential polls.