Russia demands the release of nationals arrested in Belarus during post-election riots

MOSCOW (BNO NEWS) - The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday demanded Belarus to release all Russian nationals who were arrested in Minsk during riots after Sunday's presidential elections, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Nine Russians were detained along with around 600 other protesters as they were participating in a public demonstration to protest the presidential elections results. The protest evolved into a riot and Belarusian police forces brutally dispersed the mob.

"Russia has posed the urgent issue of the necessity of the early release of all the Russian citizens who were detained in Minsk on December 19 and are currently under administrative arrest in a temporary detention center," the Foreign Ministry informed through a statement, as cited by RIA Novosti.

Sunday's poll resulted in the victory of long-standing leader Alexander Lukashenko, who is referred to as the last dictator of Europe. Lukashenko won a fourth term in the presidency and, as a result, people went to the streets to protest the controversial vote counting process.

One Russian journalist was freed on Wednesday by Belarusian authorities. Alexander Astafyev, a St. Petersburg press photographer, was detained for participating in the riots. He is one of the nine Russian citizens detained.

Astafyev was also one of several journalists arrested during the riots as he did not receive accreditation to cover the presidential elections, according to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. In protest, the press photographer declared a hunger strike.

Russian diplomats visited five of the nine detainees and confirmed they are being held in normal conditions. The other detainees are expected to be visited by Russian diplomats on Thursday

Belarusian authorities also arrested five opposition candidates. The presidential candidates were beaten by abductors thought to be security agents before they were taken to an unknown detention facility.

According to official election results, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko won re-election with 79.7 percent of the vote. The number was released after all votes had been counted.

International observers earlier reported that Sunday's election failed to give Belarus the necessary new start. In addition, the electoral process was marred with inconsistencies, especially during the vote counting process.


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