The Republic of Belarus has pardoned Roman Protasevich, the opposition activist who was arrested after being forcibly removed from a flight in Belarusian airspace in May 2021. Protasevich had been facing charges of attempting to overthrow the government of Belarus, and his partner Sofia Sapega had also been detained in Belarus.
His pardon was part of a sweeping amnesty announced by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko this week. The pardon appears to have been supported by the Russian government, which had pressured Belarus to release Protasevich. The pardon also comes as the European Union weighs enacting much harsher sanctions against Minsk in response to what European officials called a “state-sponsored kidnapping”.
Protasevich’s lawyer, Dmitry Laevsky, said that his client and Sapega have already left Belarus. It is unclear if Protasevich will be allowed to leave the country for good.
The release of Protasevich and others in the sweeping amnesty could ease international tensions that built up in response to the incident in May. The West had called on Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release Protasevich and Sapega. The European Union had imposed several sanctions on the Belarus government in response to the incident.