Critics warn that the move does not mean freedom for the detained activist and his Russian partner.

Dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was dramatically detained in Minsk last month after his plane was forced to land in Minsk, has been placed under house arrest, according to Belarusian opposition figures.

Protasevich, 26, was arrested on May 23 along with his Russian partner Sofia Sapega, 23, after Belarusian authorities rushed a fighter jet to intercept their Ryanair plane in response to a bomb threat.

They have been accused of helping coordinate anti-government protests last year, which escalated after longtime President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth term in a contested election in August.

On Friday, an adviser to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said he spoke to Protasevich’s parents, who told him their son had been under house arrest.

“But it’s not freedom. It’s a different type of prison. The KGB people live in the same room as him, ”tweeted Franak Viacorka, referring to the Belarusian national intelligence agency.

Earlier, the BBC’s Russian service quoted Protasevich’s father, Dmitry, as saying his son had been under house arrest in a rented apartment in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.

He said the authorities had not provided any further information.

Sapega’s attorney, Alexander Filanovich, told her Telegram channel that she was also under house arrest, adding that he expected her case to be “positively resolved in the near future.”

Sapega’s stepfather told the BBC his apartment was separate from Protasevich’s.

“House arrest does not mean freedom”

Tsikhanouskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania, a member state of the European Union, hailed the development as “good news” but said on his Telegram channel that the couple were “still being held hostage”.

“House arrest does not mean freedom,” she said.

After their arrests, Protasevich and Sapega appeared in “confession” videos which their supporters say were recorded under duress.

Protasevich faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Protasevich’s father told the BBC that his son and Sapega were “still under the full control of the authorities” and that the charges against them had not been dropped.

Most of Lukashenko’s opponents are now in prison or have fled the country.

In response to the arrests of Protasevich and Sapega, which sparked international outrage, Brussels banned Belarusian airline Belavia from operating flights to airports in the 27-country bloc and discouraged EU-based airlines. to fly over Belarus.

The EU and the US have imposed waves of sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies for cracking down on protests which have seen thousands of arrests and reports of police brutality.

The US, EU, UK and Canada joined forces on Monday to impose severe penalties on several senior Belarusian officials.

The EU also imposed on Thursday a series of bruises economic sanctions which target Belarus’ main exports, including potash – a common ingredient in fertilizers – and petroleum products.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said the purpose of the sanctions was to “disintegrate and undermine a sovereign and independent state”.





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