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Belarusian court hands dissident's girlfriend 6-year prison sentence

Sofia Sapega, the Russian girlfriend of detained Belarusian dissident Roman Protasevich, was sentenced to six years in prison for inciting social hatred, Reuters reports Friday.

Sapega was traveling with Protasevich last May when their flight was diverted to Minsk by Belarusian authorities. At the time, Belarus claimed it grounded the plane due to a tip about a bomb; but the threat ended up being false, and both Protasevich and Sapega were detained, Reuters writes.

The forced diversion was immediately condemned by the international community, many members of which likened the incident to a state-sponsored hijacking. The European Union and the United States responded by enacting more sanctions against Belarus.

Per Reuters, Protzsevich — who fled Belarus in 2019 — has yet to go on trial, and "the status of the investigation against him is unclear."

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia will "continue to protect" Sapega's "legitimate interests" since she is a citizen, but declined to comment on the Belarusian court's decision.

"We greatly dislike it when someone comments on the decisions of our courts, so we will not comment the decision of the court in friendly Belarus," Peskov said.