One of the 23-year-old Russian students, Sophia Sapiga. Last Sunday, she was arrested with her friend Roman Protasevic at Minsk airport. Sapega studies International and European Law at EHU. “In a few weeks, she will have to defend her thesis,” said Tsimofi Michukevich, president of the university’s student union.
But the chance that she could actually do this appears to be nil. “She is in the KGB prison in Minsk. That’s all we know now,” said Melta. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus did not change the name of the intelligence service. “Of course we are using all our diplomatic channels in Brussels and Washington to apply maximum pressure to release her and Roman. We will do everything we can, but so far to no avail.”
The border with Belarus is only thirty kilometers away.
Many students are in shock, says Michukevic. “It’s all about now, everyone is busy kidnapping Sophia, but they’re also busy with their safety.” If the Belarusian students thought that they were safe in Lithuania until last Sunday, then they have lost any illusion about it. “We know that the Belarusian security forces are probably working here, watching us,” said Michukevich. “The border with Belarus is only thirty kilometers away, and the students are terrified. Sophia is one of us, and we feel we can all be next.”
“Of course we are upset,” says Maxmas Melta. “But it also unites us. It’s not the first time we’ve faced these kinds of setbacks, and it won’t be the last time either.” According to Milta, two other students and two former university students are being held in Minsk, along with 420 other political prisoners: “We are steadfast and we know that we must stick to the Lukashenko regime.”
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