Belarus’ “Hijacking” Actions Explained

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FRANAK VIACORKA, SENIOR ADVISER TO SVETLANA TIKHANOVSKAYA: Yes, yes, we heard the same information. Mother and father of Roman received information that he is — with the problems with heart in one of Mink’s hospitals. But we can’t prove this information, because this information came from doctors or from those in medical circles who saw or at least heard that he was brought to the hospital. It doesn’t mean that he’s released. He’s still under arrest. But I knew that he had some problem with heart. And I’m sure that, during the detention, that, during the interrogation, he could be pressed, pushed, and also potentially tortured.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: So, he did have a heart condition? Because that is something that many did not know or were not aware of and sort of questioned that headline when they see his age, a young man in his 20s. But he did have a — he does have a heart condition?

VIACORKA: I’m — I don’t know for sure. But I know that he was always — had concerns about his health. And one of his arguments of returning to Belarus and not being detained by Lukashenko’s KGB because he has very weak health. And he was saying that he will not survive if KGB will capture him.

GOLODRYGA: Franak, can you tell us a little bit about Roman and the latest work that he’s been doing?

VIACORKA: Roman is a young guy, journalist turned to be activist, very romantical. He always was dreaming to live in Belarus free and democratic. He — since he’s 17, he was — participate in all the rallies, marches. And during the last two, three years, he was managing several very cool media projects on Telegram. He was collecting videos, pictures. He was working with citizen journalists. And the most important, he was always writing very strong texts, inspiring people for nonviolent resistance. He always believed that Belarusians must fight for their freedom and democracy. And he supported this nonviolent revolution that started last August.

GOLODRYGA: And, Anne, you wrote a piece just last year on the social media platform that he works for, the Nexta Live. What can you tell us about this site and the work that they’re doing?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, AUTHOR, “TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY”: Yes, this was a really unusual and interesting way of conducting — conducting opposition demonstrations last summer. Just for those — those viewers who don’t know, the demonstrations happened in the wake of a presidential election that was stolen. The current dictator of Belarus ran a very strange campaign.

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