Belarus aired an interview with detained journalist Raman Pratasevich on state TV on Thursday, a video that included tears and a confession to opposing the government. Regime opponents criticized the video as being made under duress, Reuters reports. "His parents believe he was tortured. This is not Raman I know," one said, referring to the broadcast on Twitter as "Goebbels' TV." In the video, Pratasevich says he's speaking of his own accord. "I immediately admitted my guilt in organizing massive unauthorized actions," he says, while criticizing opposition leaders and abandoning his previous criticism of Belarus ruler Alexander Lukashenko. "When I became more involved in political topics, I began to understand that he was doing the right thing and I certainly respect him," Pratasevich said.
Pratasevich helped start a messaging app that was used by Lukashenko's political foes. He was taken into custody when a Ryanair passenger jet was forced to land in Minsk last month. At the end of the video, Pratasevich says he wants to have "an ordinary, calm life, have a family, children, stop running away from something." The video then shows him weeping, per the AP. The government responded to US sanctions on Thursday, reducing the number of staff members allowed at the embassy in Minsk, per CNN. The Foreign Ministry did not announce the numbers involved. Ambassador Julie Fisher took office in December but is not in Belarus. Fisher will "continue to support the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people, and she'll continue to engage with them from outside of Belarus," a State Department spokesman said, adding that she's in touch with pro-democracy activists. (Read more Belarus stories.)