Dissident journalist Roman Protasevich / REUTERS

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says "investigators from Donbas" may interrogate dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was recently detained at Minsk Airport.

The Belarusian leader announced this during a meeting on cooperation with Russia, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

"They in Donbas have opened a criminal case against such persons. I reminded President [of Russia Vladimir] Putin that a criminal case had been opened and said that if they [the investigators] had questions to ask – they are welcome, please ask them questions, because they would kill people there, in Donbas," Lukashenko said.

Lukashenko also commented on Protasevich's words about the death penalty the journalist is facing in Belarus.

"He was aware of what he was talking about – he knew claims could be brought against him there, in the 'southeast of Ukraine,' and this is a completely different situation," Lukashenko said.

Earlier, the so-called "Prosecutor General's Office" of the self-proclaimed "Luhansk People's Republic" ("LPR") had asked Belarus to extradite Protasevich "for conducting an investigative experiment."

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Detention of Protasevich in Minsk

  • On May 23, 2021, Roman Protasevich, 26, a co-founder and former editor of the NEXTA channel on the messaging app Telegram, was arrested along with his girlfriend after his Ryanair flight had been made to land at Minsk Airport.
  • Shortly after, Belarus' KGB shared a video with the interrogation of the journalist. He appeared to have a small black spot on his forehead.
  • Protasevich is reportedly facing the death penalty in Belarus.
  • In November 2020, Protasevich and another co-founder of NEXTA Stepan Putilo, 22, were put on the wanted list; before that, a case had been opened against them for organizing mass riots in Belarus.
  • NEXTA is a Telegram channel that covers political events in Belarus, it helped mobilize recent protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
  • Russian media outlets have recently disseminated information about Protasevich's involvement in hostilities in Donbas. He allegedly was a member of Ukraine's Azov battalion. Protasevich's representatives denied the accusations. Leader of the National Corps in Ukraine Andriy Biletsky said that Protasevich was engaged exclusively in journalistic work at the front.