« Je suis incroyablement reconnaissant envers le président » : comment un dissident biélorusse est devenu un apologue du régime.


Raman Pratasevich, a young Belarusian dissident blogger, was arrested two years ago after being dragged off a Ryanair flight and imprisoned. Last week, he emerged from custody after being charged with more than 1,586 crimes and sentenced to eight years in prison. However, he was promptly pardoned by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko for becoming a full-throated mouthpiece of the regime. Pratasevich now appears regularly on Belarusian state television and other propaganda outlets, where he plays a new role: a penitent defector from the opposition who has denounced his former allies and now extols the benevolence of the Belarusian dictator, day after day.

The breaking of Pratasevich, who weeks before his arrest compared Lukashenko’s repressions to Hitler’s, has been a macabre display of the dictator’s power and desire for revenge. Lukashenko’s dream is for the Belarusian opposition to get on its knees and beg him for forgiveness and admit it has been politically defeated. While the Belarusian leader has appeared to be facing health difficulties recently, his control over the state apparatus seems firm. Last week, he said Belarus had begun to take delivery of tactical nuclear weapons from Russia, raising the stakes for any future protest in the country.

Friends who knew Pratasevich before his arrest painted a picture of a young and enthusiastic activist who was riding a wave of euphoria on the crucial role that he and colleagues played in the protest movement of 2020. However, Pratasevich’s recent transformation has shocked many, including his former colleague Jan Rudzik, a journalist who worked closely with him during the 2020 protests. Pratasevich’s case stands as a symbol of the physical and psychological dangers of standing up to Lukashenko.

Keywords: Raman Pratasevich, Belarus, Lukashenko, dictatorship, opposition, propaganda, state television, protest movement, KGB.

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