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Russian foreign ministry reminds Minsk of freedom of expression

Maria Zakharova. Photo: RIA Novosti

The Russian Foreign Ministry has addressed the case of arrested Belarusian columnists urging Belarus to investigate it in compliance with its commitments to respect the freedom of expression. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova made such statement in response to a question by EADaily’s correspondent at a press briefing on October 26.

“We familiarized ourselves with the information that the case of the Russian citizens who are charged by the Belarusian authorities with stirring up ethnic or other kinds of hatred and who had cooperated with Russian information resources, including with the ones we have already talked about, has been submitted to the Minsk City Court. We’d like to urge the Belarusian side to consider the criminal cases with maximum responsibility and in strict compliance with Belarus’ commitments to observe the freedom of expression,” Zakharova said.

To recall, three pro-Russian columnists, citizens of Belarus, Sergey Shiptenko, Dmitry Alimkin and Yuri Pavlovets were arrested in Belarus in December 2016 over suspicion of “stirring up national hatred.”

In their articles for Russian mass media, the journalists harshly criticized Minsk’s pro-Western foreign policy and flirting with radical nationalists. Noteworthy that neither the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications of Russia nor independent experts found in their articles any signs of extremism reported by the investigation. Pavlovets and Shiptenko are charged additionally with “illegal entrepreneurship” by which they actually meant the author’s remuneration.

Editor-in-Chief of Regnum Yuri Baranchik was also detained in Moscow at the request of the Belarusian government. However, the Russian court ruled the facts provided by the Belarusian Investigation Committee insufficient for extradition and Baranchik was set free.

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