Russian photo correspondent arrested in Minsk gets 10 days behind bars (Update 2)

St. Petersburg press photographer Alexander Astafyev has been sentenced to 10 days in prison in Belarus for participating in Sunday's opposition riots in Minsk, the newspaper said on Tuesday.

"According to our sources, he was sentenced to 10-day jail term and declared a hunger strike," a worker at the paper said.

Earlier reports said Astafyev had been sentenced to 15 days imprisonment.

One of Astafyev's colleagues said the photo correspondent had called the newspaper on Monday evening, saying he was being sent for trial. There are no further details on Astafyev's whereabouts.

A demonstration involving thousands of Belarusians was brutally dispersed by police late on Sunday following the presidential elections, when opposition protestors tried to storm the parliament after preliminary results showed strongman Alexander Lukashenko had won his fourth consecutive term as president.

Harry Pogonaylo of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee human rights organization said Ukrainian and Russian citizens were among those detained during the clashes.

Nine Russians are among those detained following the incident, according to the press secretary of the Russian embassy in Minsk, Vadim Gusev.

The Ekho Moskvy radio station reported earlier some 600 people were detained by police at the opposition rally, including Russian journalists. Many of them were brutally beaten.

Russia Today TV channel's cameramen Anton Kharchenko and Viktor Filyaev were injured in the clash as well as REN TV and Russian state-run First channel's correspondent and cameraman.

The New York Times' John Hill also received several injuries during the Belarus opposition riots.

At least five presidential candidates were arrested following the protests. One of them, Vladimir Neklyaev, was severely beaten and taken to a police station directly from his hospital bed where he received treatment for a head injury.

MOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti)


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