A prominent Belarusian political analyst has fled the country, saying he fears being imprisoned, days after being named by detained journalist Raman Pratasevich in a televised interview widely considered to have been given under duress.
Pratasevich, who was arrested after a fighter jet intercepted a Ryanair flight on May 23 and forced it to land in Minsk, said in an interview on Belarusian state media on June 3 that he helped fueled “mass disorder” while working with Belarus’s pro-democracy movement.
In the interview, he gave the names of other people who were also involved, including political scientist Artsyom Shraybman.
In a Telegram post on June 5, Shraybman said he does not blame Pratasevich for the statements and that the journalist was a “hostage” of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime.
He added that he does not work for the opposition and has only been an observer and objective political analyst.
“I have a long-standing position that an analyst cannot and should not become a participant in the processes that he analyzes, just as a match commentator cannot be a football player on the field,” Shraybman wrote.
Shraybman is a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center and runs a political consultancy. He's a widely sought after voice by the media, including RFE/RL.
Shraybman suggested the security services knew he was an observer in certain opposition chat groups months ago, and that everything he said was public in his media interviews and analyses.
But now, he said he feared arbitrary arrest after Pratasevich’s statements.
“In today's Belarus, even lack of involvement in what the authorities consider a crime is already insufficient insurance,” he wrote.
Later, Shraybman said he had fled to Ukraine.
Pratasevich’s family and the Belarusian opposition say two interviews with the detained journalist released by the Belarusian authorities were done under duress and possible torture. (RFE/RL has decided not to publish or link to any of these videos.)
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.
A former key administrator of the Telegram channel Nexta-Live, Pratasevich had been covering the mass protests denouncing the official results of an August 2020 presidential poll that handed Lukashenka a sixth presidential term.
Lukashenka’s regime has unleashed a harsh crackdown on the country’s pro-democracy movement following the disputed election that the opposition says was rigged and many Western nations have refused to acknowledge.
Pratasevich is facing charges of being behind civil disturbances, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The flight incident and arrest of Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, caused an international uproar.
In response to the flight diversion and ongoing human rights abuses, the United States and European Union are coordinating a fresh round of targeted sanctions against key members of the Belarusian government and entities.
The EU also banned Belarusian carriers from using the bloc's airports and airspace.