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1 Jun, 2021 16:05

Donbass officials ask Belarus to extradite Ryanair flight detainee Protasevich over alleged role fighting for neo-Nazi battalion

Donbass officials ask Belarus to extradite Ryanair flight detainee Protasevich over alleged role fighting for neo-Nazi battalion

Prosecutors in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic in Eastern Ukraine have sent a formal request to Belarus for the extradition of Roman Protasevich, whose dramatic arrest made headlines around the world last week.

The office of the prosecutor general in the breakaway Ukrainian region is currently investigating claims that Protasevich fought against its forces in 2014 as part of the far right-led Azov Battalion. The group, which fights under a flag featuring the Nazi Wolfsangel logo, attracted ultra-right mercenaries from across Europe during the conflict.

Protasevich, the editor of the opposition-aligned Belamova Telegram channel, classed by officials in Minsk as an ‘extremist organization’, was on board a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania when it was told to land in the Belarusian capital. He, along with his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, was arrested by security forces on the tarmac, and now faces an investigation over his alleged role in organizing long-running anti-government protests in the country.

Also on rt.com Jailed Belarusian activist Protasevich spent Donbass War with Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, but was it as a soldier or journalist?

Multiple sources previously confirmed that the Belarusian national had been present in the Donbass region as fighting raged following the 2014 Maidan. According to Andrey Biletsky, the first head of the Azov Battalion, the blogger “fought against the occupation of Ukraine together with Azov and other military units.”

“He was with us near Shirokino, where he was injured,” he said. “But his weapon, as a journalist, was not a machine gun, but words.”

However, a number of allegations have since surfaced, with claims that Protasevich did more than just cover the fighting as a journalist, but actually participated in the conflict as a combatant. At the same time, a photo purported to be the blogger wearing a T-shirt bearing Nazi iconography has since been shared widely.

Protasevich’s arrest has led to widespread condemnation in the West, with Belarus being accused of state-sponsored ‘piracy’. However, officials in the country claim that they only told the jet to land because of a credible bomb threat made against it by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. The militants, however, deny involvement and have insisted they would not resort to bombing passenger planes flying between countries in Europe. A number of Western nations and airline companies have since said they will not fly through Belarusian airspace since the incident.

Also on rt.com Russian woman arrested in Minsk after grounding of Ryanair flight could be deported home after trial, says Belarus’ chief diplomat

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