Hundreds of people in Poland and Lithuania demonstrated on Saturday to show their support for Belarusian opponents a week after the country is in the limelight of the Minsk forced landing of the Ryanair plane.
In Poland, a group of people gathered in Warsaw Palace Square, including the parents of the opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, who was arrested by the Belarusian authorities while crash landing.
Protasevich’s mother sent a message to Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, pointing out that both his son and girlfriend Sofia Sapega are in jail for fighting for freedom of expression.
“I am asking all the countries of the European Union and the United States to help liberate Raman and Sofia,” said Protasevich’s mother, on the Polish public broadcaster Polskie Radio.
Both the journalist’s relatives and the demonstrators have called for the release of political prisoners in Belarus and helped with messages against Lukashenko.
In neighboring Lithuania, around 200 people with similar messages have gathered in the capital Vilnius. This protest was attended by opposition leader Svetlana Tijanovskaya, who left Belarus in August 2020 as part of the protests in Minsk following the results of the elections that put the Belarusian president in power.
“The last week has become a catalyst for a global response. Various countries are investigating, imposing sanctions on the regime and expressing support for plans to help Belarus,” Tijanovskaya said, according to the LRT agency.
On May 23, an Irish airline Ryanair, traveling from Athens to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, landed in Minsk, where Protasevich and Sapega were arrested.
As a result, the European Union agreed this week to close the airspace on Belarus, a measure already approved by other countries such as Slovakia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Latvia and Estonia, and to prepare further sanctions to economically suffocate the airspace Lukashenko government.
The crisis in the former Soviet republic goes back to last August. The elections in which Lukashenko received a sixth term and which were criticized by the EU. Since then, the European bloc has passed three rounds of sanctions and has blacklisted 88 civil servants and seven top organizations in the country.