The Investigative Committee of Belarus opened another criminal case against the founder of the Nexta telegram channel Stepan Putilo, as well as team member Yan Rudik, informs department press office. In the UK, Putilo and Rudik were called “heads of a terrorist organization.”
A criminal case was initiated under Part 1 of Article 290-5 of the Criminal Code of Belarus “for organizing and directing the activities of the Nexta terrorist organization.” Punishment under this article provides for up to 15 years in prison.
As stated in the Investigative Committee of Belarus, that since 2020, Putilo and members of the Nexta team have used their information resources to “destabilize the situation on the territory of Belarus and radicalize the so-called protest actions.”
“The above terrorists have repeatedly called for inciting social hatred and discord, blocking roads and coordinating street riots, committing terrorist attacks on the railway and sabotage at enterprises that could lead to man-made disasters,” the report says.
In Belarus, after the presidential elections in 2020, in the face of Internet restrictions, local media switched to covering events in Telegram. The Nexta channel is one of the most popular in the country.
In 2020, the Central District Court of Minsk recognized the Nexta Live telegram channel and the Nexta logo as extremist materials. In February 2021, Nexta Live, Nexta and its logo, as well as the satirical channel Luxta were made to the list of republican extremist materials.
In November 2020, the KGB of Belarus included Stepan Putilo, the founder of Nexta and Nexta Live, on the list of organizations and individuals involved in terrorist activities. He is also accused and suspected under ten more criminal articles:
- Part 1 Art. 357 (conspiracy or other actions committed with the aim of seizing state power – up to 12 years in prison);
- Parts 1 and 2 of Art. 342 (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them – up to 4 years in prison);
- Parts 1 and 3 of Art. 293 (riots – up to 15 years in prison);
- Parts 1 and 3 of Art. 130 (inciting racial, national, religious or other social hatred or discord – up to 12 years in prison);
- Part 3 Art. 361 (calls for restrictive measures (sanctions), other actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus – up to 12 years in prison);
- Art. 188 (slander – up to 3 years in prison);
- Part 1 Art. 368 (insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus – up to 4 years in prison);
- Part 1 of Article 3611 (creation of an extremist formation or participation in it – up to 7 years in prison);
- Part 2 of Article 3612 (financing of extremist activities – up to 8 years in prison);
- Part 1 Art. 356 (treason to the state – up to 15 years in prison).
The authorities of Belarus put Putilo on the interstate wanted list. The founder of Nexta now lives in Poland. In 2020, he received international protection, and in 2021, he received political refugee status in this country.
In May 2021, a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius made an emergency landing in Minsk due to a false report of mining. On board were the former editor-in-chief of Nexta Roman Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend Sofya Sapega. In January 2022, Protasevich said that he was starting cooperation with the pro-government center Systemic Human Rights. A court in Belarus sentenced Sapieha to six years in prison.