MINSK, May 24. /TASS/. Roman Protasevich, a co-founder of the Nexta Telegram channel deemed as extremist in Belarus, who was detained at Minsk’s airport on Sunday, is giving a confession, according to a video aired by the Belarus 1 TV channel on Monday.
"I am kept at detention center No. 1. I continue to cooperate with the investigation and I am giving a confession concerning the organization of mass riots [after the presidential elections] in Minsk," he said. "I have no health problems, either with my heart or any other organ. I am treated quite well."
Belarusian Interior Ministry Spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova wrote on her Telegram channel on Monday evening that Protasevich was being kept at a detention center and refuted media reports that the man had been taken to a hospital in Minsk with heart problems.
A Vilnius-bound Ryanair flight that took off from Athens was forced to make an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport on Sunday after a reported bomb threat. The plane was escorted to the Minsk airport by a MiG-29 fighter jet and landed safely. No bomb was found on board. Protasevich, currently living in Lithuania and wanted in Belarus, was among the passengers and was detained after the airliner had landed in the Belarusian capital. The plane left Minsk and continued on to Vilnius late on Sunday.
The Nexta Telegram channel was recognized as extremist by Belarus’ Supreme Court on October 20, 2020. Its 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.