The Russian girlfriend of a Belarusian dissident sentenced to six years in prison has asked strongman Alexander Lukashenko for a pardon, state media said on Monday.
Sofia Sapega, 24, was detained with Belarusian opposition activist Roman Protasevich, 27, in May 2021 when their Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was grounded as it passed over Belarus.
Sapega, a Russian citizen, faced seven criminal charges including “inciting social hatred” and “violence or threats” against police and was last month sentenced to six years in prison.
On Monday, the Sovetskaya Belarus newspaper, the official mouthpiece of Lukashenko’s office, said Sapega had asked the president for a pardon.
The announcement was made after Lukashenko held talks with President Vladimir Putin in Russia at the weekend.
Lukashenko said in early June he could pardon Sapega.
“We need to resolve this issue,” he said at the time.
“We can transfer a Russian citizen to Russia. Let her serve time there. Or they can do whatever they want.”
Protasevich fled to Europe in 2019 from where he co-ran the Nexta Telegram channels, a key Belarus opposition media that helped mobilise protesters during historic rallies against the disputed re-election of Lukashenko in 2020.
After their arrests, both Protasevich and Sapega appeared in “confession” videos that their supporters said were recorded under duress and are a common tactic of the regime to pressure critics.
Protasevich remains under house arrest in Belarus awaiting trial.
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