Belarus tries two Russians over election protests


Belarus has resumed trials of people who took part in protests against President Alexander Lukashenko's controversial reelection last year, despite international criticism of the legal action.Two Russian nationals appeared in court in Minsk on Tuesday, accused of taking part in riots in December.

Russia says it is closely monitoring the treatment of the two men, 27-year-old Artyom Breus and 22-year-old Ivan Gaponov. Both have pleaded not guilty and deny links to the Belarussian opposition.

The prosecution is asking for them to be sentenced to eight years in jail each.

The Russian embassy in Minsk has accused Lukashenko's regime of seeking to "artificially contribute to anti-Russian sentiments in Belarussian society".

Belarus last week sentenced one demonstrator to four years' imprisonment, prompting criticism from the United Nations, the European Union and the US.

Lukashenko has dismissed their comments as "useless" and "dishonest", the Belarussian news agency Belta reports.

A total of 42 people - five of them presidential candidates - are accused of organising mass disturbances and other violations that carry prison sentences of up to 15 years.

Some 600 people were jailed immediately after the protests in December. The government also threatened to shut down all political parties that had participated in the demonstrations.

Lukashenko was reelected for a fourth term with almost 80 per cent of the vote. The opposition accuses his supporters of fraud.


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