FILE PHOTO: Student Sofia Sapega poses for a picture in Gothenburg, Sweden, in this undated photo taken in 2019. She and Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Protasevich were arrested in Belarus on May 23, 2021 after a forced landing of Ryanair Flight 4978 flying from Athens to Vilnius. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo/File Photo
By Andrius Sytas
May 25, 2021
(Reuters) - The mother of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich's girlfriend, who was arrested with him in Belarus after their plane was forced to land there, said her daughter was innocent and simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sofia Sapega, 23, who is from Belarus, steered clear of politics, her mother Anna Dudich told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
The young couple were returning from a two-week vacation in Greece on Sunday when their Ryanair flight to Vilnius was forced to land in Minsk. Sapega was detained on Sunday, and on Tuesday her lawyer was told she was being held for two months.
Speaking from the Belarus town of Lida, Dudich said she feared for her daughter's health and safety in detention.
"Of course, this is the main thing which I fear now," she said. "She is a very tough girl in a moral sense. She will get through, she will withstand, I'm sure of that."
Neither Dudich nor the lawyer have been able to contact Sapega since her detention, and have not been informed of any charges against her.
"My hopes are now probably based on a miracle and on the knowledge that my daughter is definitely not guilty of anything," Dudich said. "She simply showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Sofia, a Russian citizen, is in the final year of international law studies at the European Humanities University in Vilnius. Dudich said she had not spoken to Protasevich, 26, and that her daughter had been in a relationship with him for less than six months.
A passenger on the diverted flight told Reuters that, as Protasevich realized he was about to be arrested, he handed Sapega his laptop and phone for safekeeping.
"She was a very good student," Dudich said. "She had very ambitious plans."
On the eve of the flight, her daughter called Dudich to tell her about her Greek vacation. Then she sent one final text after the plane was forced to land in Belarus.
"In Minsk she just wrote me 'Mama'. And that was it."