Russians detained at human rights conference in Belarus

Belarusian police on Wednesday detained at least five Russian rights activists in the country’s capital Minsk.

Viktoria Gromova and Lyubov Zakharova were detained at the Belarusian human rights center Vyasna (Spring) shortly before they were to attend a news conference on the human rights situation in the country.

Later, Irina Paikacheva, Yury Dzhibladze and Alexander Mnatsakyan were detained.

A Russian television journalist was also detained, according to some reports.

A police lieutenant who appeared before the reporters said the Russians were being questioned but “not detained.”

He refused to elaborate.

Police sealed off the center due to an alleged bomb alert.

Gromova and Zakharova, activists of the Youth Rights Movement based in the Russian city of Voronezh, have for years been closely cooperating with their Belarusian colleagues.

Andrei Yurov, leader of the Youth Rights Movement and head of an international group monitoring the human rights situation in Belarus, was arrested in mid-March.

He was formally accused of “illegally crossing the border,” deported and banned from reentering Belarus until 2013.

Yurov said the Belarusian state security service, still known by the Soviet-era acronym KGB, accused him of “meddling in Belarus’s internal affairs.”

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch in March published a report detailing persecution of opposition candidates and activists, abuse of detainees and trials behind closed doors in the months following an anti-government protest in December.

The Belarusian authorities are still investigating more than 46 individuals on riot charges related to the protest, including seven former presidential candidates. Four have already been convicted and sentenced to up to four years in prison. Two Russians have been released but ordered to pay hefty fines.

MINSK, May 4 (RIA Novosti) 

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