Girlfriend of arrested journalist faces charges as ‘confession’ video leaks

The girlfriend of a dissident journalist arrested in Belarus has appeared in an apparent confession video.

Russian citizen Sofia Sapega was detained along with her partner Roman Protasevich, 26, after they were seized from a diverted Ryanair plane.

The passenger jet was forced to land in Minsk, Belarus on Sunday due to a bomb hoax in an act denounced by Western powers as "state piracy”.

Mr Protasevich is an enemy of Belarus's dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Student Ms Sapega, 23, appeared in a clip on Tuesday evening speaking fast and looking uncomfortable.

The Russian foreign ministry said she could face criminal charges.

She said she was an editor of a Telegram messaging app channel that had publicised the personal data of Belarusian law enforcement personnel, a crime in Belarus.

The opposition said the video looked forced, while her mum questioned how freely she was speaking.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian opposition who operates from nearby Lithuania, said she appeared to be under psychological pressure.

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Franak Viacorka, an adviser to Tsikhanouskaya, said the confession appeared to have been made under duress.

He wrote: “She is guilty of being a friend of Roman. And they forced her to confess to 'crimes' she did not commit.”

The authorities in Belarus will keep her in a pre-trial detention facility for two months.

The video follows a clip of Mr Protasevich released on Monday.

Her mum, Anna Dudich, told Reuters her daughter was innocent and simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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She told the BBC: “Even my friends called me and said … this is an unusual manner for her.

"She sways, eyes in the sky – as if afraid of forgetting something."

The RIA news agency, citing Russia's embassy to Belarus, reported she felt fine and had not complained of inappropriate treatment.

Ms Sapega, a student at a university in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, was flying there on Sunday with her boyfriend after their holiday in Greece.

The flight from Athens changed course moments before landing in Vilnius

Flight FR4978 was forced to divert to Minsk and was accompanied by a fighter jet that had been scrambled to guide it there.

Following the incident, the UK Government on Monday advised all British airlines against flying over Belarusian airspace.

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