The father of dissident Roman Protasevich says Belarus 'broke him' after video showed him praising the country's authoritarian leader on state TV

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The father of dissident Roman Protasevich says Belarus 'broke him' after video showed him praising the country's authoritarian leader on state TV
Roman Protasevich appearing on the Belarusian state TV channel ONT on June 3, 2021.ONT via Matthew Luxmoore/Twitter
  • Belarusian state TV aired an interview in which Roman Protasevich praised President Lukashenko.
  • Protasevich's father said this showed Belarus had "broken" his son and forced his actions.
  • Dmitry Protasevich said: "I know my son very well and I believe that he would never say such things."

The father of Roman Protasevich, the Belarusian dissident who was detained after authorities diverted his flight, has said that the country had "broken" his son by forcing him to confess and praise its authoritarian president on video.

The Belarusian state TV channel ONT published a 90-minute-long interview on Thursday, which showed Protasevich appearing to praise President Alexander Lukashenko, whom Protasevich had long criticized.

"I realized that many things Aleksandr Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] is criticised for are just attempts to pressure him, and that in many moments he acted like … a man with balls of steel," Protasevich said, according to Matthew Luxmoore, RFERL's Moscow correspondent.

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Protasevich went on to say that he regretted on calling on Belarusians to organize against the government and distanced himself from the country's opposition leader.

In a Thursday interview with Agence France-Presse after the state TV interview was aired, Protasevich's father Dmitry said: "I know my son very well and I believe that he would never say such things."

"They broke him and forced him to say what was needed," he said.

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Protasevich is a co-founder of the NEXTA Telegram channel, the most popular opposition platform in Belarus.

Roman Protasevich was seized by Belarusian authorities on May 23 after the country diverted his Lithuania-bound Ryanair flight. The dissident had been living in Poland in 2019 over fears for his security.

Dmitry Protasevich said last month that he believed Roman was being forced to admit guilt in an earlier video Belarusian authorities released of him, and that Roman appeared to be beaten up.

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