Russian detainees in Minsk pin hopes on Belarusian Supreme Court

MINSK, December 28 (Itar-Tass) -- Russian citizens detained in unauthorized opposition protests in Minsk on December 19-20 appealed to the Belarusian Supreme Court for release on Tuesday, Russian embassy counselor Vadim Gusev told Itar-Tass.

"The Russian ambassador has lodged appeals from seven Russian citizens with the Supreme Court," he said, saying that the Minsk City Court denied the release of the Russians on Monday.

"The embassy asked the Supreme Court for the rapid consideration of the appeals," Gusev said. "Hopefully, the Supreme Court of Belarus will give an affirmative answer, and the Russian citizens will see in New Year together with families and friends."

In all, eleven Russian citizens were seized in Minsk and sentenced to administrative arrests from ten to fifteen days. Three citizens will be released on December 29, so they did not appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal from another citizen will be heard at the Minsk City Court on December 30.

Belarusian Ambassador Vasily Dolgolev was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. The ministry stressed the need for the soonest liberation of the Russian citizens from custody in Minsk.

Deputy Foreign Ministry Grigory Karasin said he was very disappointed with the decision of the Minsk City Court, which turned down release appeals from the Russian citizens on December 27.

"This position of the Belarusian side fails to meet the spirit of traditional friendship between Russia and Belarus," Karasin said. "The Russian side once again stresses the need for the immediate release of its citizens detained in Minsk on December 19. Their further custody will damage the political atmosphere in the bilateral relations."

The ambassador said he would convey the Russian position to the Belarusian administration.

The Russian Foreign Ministry insists on the release of Russian citizens seized in Minsk on December 19-20 during unauthorized opposition actions, Karasin told his Belarusian counterpart Igor Petrishenko by phone on December 24.

"The Russian side once again expressed the necessity of soonest release of all the Russians taken into custody in Minsk on December 19," the ministry said.

"Belarusian authorities are taking efforts to that effect and maintaining close contact with the Russian embassy in Belarus," Petrishenko said.

"The sides agreed to continue their contacts," the ministry said.

Russian diplomats again visited the detainees on Thursday, December 23, to provide legal assistance. "The diplomats presented the detainees with drafts of appeals for their earliest release from custody and pledged the payment of state duties by the embassy," the ministry said.

"The Russian citizens did not make any claims concerning custody conditions," the ministry added.

Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said on December 23 that the Russian embassy in Minsk had been ordered to intensify the protection of rights of Russian citizens in Belarus, including the work on the release of the people detained in Minsk on December 19.

"First of all, we know the Belarusian opinion of the Minsk events, and any comment would be unnecessary," he said. "At the same time, the soonest release of the Russian citizens and the unbiased investigation are very important. Secondly, it is a direct duty of the ambassador and any Russian state mission abroad to provide full, appropriate and unconditional protection of lawful rights and interests of any Russian citizen, without exceptions. The Russian embassy in Minsk has a clear directive to intensify this work," Prikhodko said.


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