Unrecognized Donbass Republic claims “irrefutable evidence” that Belarusian activist Protasevich fought for the neo-Nazi battalion

Prosecutors of the self-proclaimed Lugansk Republic (LNR) have accused Roman Protasevich, the activist who was arrested when his plane landed in Minsk last month, of being part of the neo-Nazi Azov battalion.

The LNR is an unrecognized state in Ukraine and has existed since the war in Donbass in 2014, when separatists unilaterally declared their independence from Kiev. Founded in 2014, the Azov Battalion is a far-right military unit now integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine and loyal to Kiev.

On Wednesday, LNR Prosecutor General Sergei Gorenko alleged that he had received evidence that Protasevich took part in the Donbass War on the side of Ukraine and fought for the neo-Nazi militia.

Azov fought at the height of the Donbass War and first saw the Battle of Mariupol. The group is strongly associated with neo-Nazi ideology, with the regiment’s logo showing the Wolfsangel, a symbol for many divisions of the Nazi Bundeswehr during World War II. Joining the Azov Battalion is illegal in Donbass and Belarus.

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“Republican law enforcement agencies have managed to obtain sufficient irrefutable evidence of the person’s involvement in the activities of the pro-Ukrainian nationalist ‘Azov’ group, which is banned in the LNR.” the Attorney General said in a statement.

As reported earlier this month, LNR officials have already requested his extradition.

Protasevich, the editor of the opposition broadcaster Belamova Telegram, classified by officials in Belarus as an “extremist organization”, was arrested in May after his Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in the Belarusian capital by allegedly Minsk Bomb threat. However, Swiss provider Proton Mail later claimed the warning was emailed after the plane had already been diverted and contradicted the Belarusian authorities.

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Shortly after his arrest, so-called evidence of Protasevich’s service in Donbass was later presented. The activist previously admitted spending time in the area as a journalist and even noted he was shot once. However, he denies joining the battalion as a soldier.

This was later supported by the former Azov commander Andrey Biletsky.

“He was with us near Shirokino, where he was injured.” he explained. “But his weapon as a journalist wasn’t a machine gun, it was words.”

However, an old interview with his father was later discovered in which he revealed that Protasevich “fought” in Donbass. Photos later surfaced of someone looking like Protasevich, holding a gun and wearing a uniform.

There is also no record of him producing journalism during his time in the region and the battalion.

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