Father of detained journalist Roman Protasevich says son was 'forced' to appear

Journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested on Sunday after authorities in Belarus forced his flight to land in Minsk

The father of a journalist detained in Belarus says his son was forced to appear in a video admitting to organising anti-government protests and that he appeared to have been beaten.

Journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested on Sunday (23 May) after authorities in his native Belarus forced his flight to land in the capital of Minsk.

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Mr Protasevich, 26, who is based in Lithuania, appeared on a video on Monday (24 May) admitting he had played a role in organising anti-government protests in Minsk last year.

Mr Protasevich, 26, who is based in Lithuania, appeared on a video on Monday (Nexta)

His father Dzmitry Protasevich saw the video from his home in Poland, and has dismissed it as the result of coercion.

He said: ''I think he was forced. It's not his words, it's not his intonation of speech, he is acting very reserved and you can see he is nervous.

"It is very likely that his nose is broken, because the shape of it is changed and there's much powder on the front of it, all of the left side of his face has powder, there's some greasy stuff on the left side.

"And it's not his pack of cigarettes on the table - he doesn't smoke these. So I think he was likely made to do that.

"And my son cannot admit to creating the mass disorders, because he just didn't do any such thing. It's unlikely he went for a deal with prosecutors. I think it's just that he was forced to record the message."

Western countries accus Belarus of hijacking

Roman Protasevich was among more than 100 passengers on board the Ryanair flight from Athens, Greece, when it was diverted from its scheduled destination of Vilnius, Lithuania. The diversion was directed by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Ryanair said Belarusian flight controllers told the crew there was a bomb threat against the plane and ordered it to land. A Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled as an escort in a brazen show of force by Mr Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for over a quarter of a century and has close ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Mr Protasevch and his female companion Sofica Sapega, 23, were both detained before the remaining passengers continued on to Lithuania.

Western countries accused Belarus of hijacking the Ryanair plane.

The EU has decided to ban Belarusian airlines from European skies after a flight was diverted to Minsk on Sunday and a dissident journalist arrested.

At a meeting in Brussels, the leaders of the 27 member states also told EU airlines not to fly over Belarus, and promised further economic sanctions.

US President Joe Biden described the actions of the Belarusian authorities as "outrageous", saying they were "shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press".