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17 Nov, 2020 10:51

Belarus asks Poland to extradite Warsaw-based founders of popular anti-government Telegram channel NEXTA, as protests continue

Belarus asks Poland to extradite Warsaw-based founders of popular anti-government Telegram channel NEXTA, as protests continue

Belarus has demanded that Poland hand over the creators of NEXTA, a popular pro-opposition Telegram channel, sharing information about the protests which have engulfed the country over recent months.

Earlier this month, Minsk placed two of the key figures behind the operation on its wanted list. Founder Stepan Putilo and former editor Roman Protasevich are accused of helping to organize riots following August’s disputed presidential election. NEXTA became well-known internationally this summer, after sharing videos of protests and police brutality, eventually growing its following to over 1.7 million subscribers.

Also on rt.com Belarus places founder & editor of NEXTA social media channel on interstate wanted list for ‘planning anti-government demos’

According to Belarus’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Polish Chargé D'Affaires Marcin Wojciechowski was told that Warsaw must hand over the two wanted men, on account of their “special danger to the public” and “criminal activity.” At the start of November, they were accused by the country’s Investigative Committee of “[encouraging] protests, blocking roads, strikes, and coordinating unauthorized mass events by indicating specific locations and routes of movement.”

In response, Protasevich told Moscow daily RBK that he is open to the idea of returning to his homeland, “in exchange for the forced transportation of Lukashenko to the international court of justice in the Hague.”

Despite the channel’s rapid growth, NEXTA founder Putilo, who now studies in Poland, insists that the operation is entirely independent, and told Russian-language publication The Bell that they have “never received a grant, nor an offer from any third-party organization or country.”

Protests in Belarus began on August 9, when incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won the country’s presidential election. According to official results, which are widely believed to have been rigged, 80.1 percent of voters voted for the long-time president, with just 10.12 percent voting for leading opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. After the closure of polling stations, demonstrations began against the alleged falsification of results.

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