Russian Minister visits Belarus and discusses media conditions


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian Foreign Minister said he discussed the situation of Russian media in Belarus during a visit to the country on Thursday following the arrest of a journalist who worked for a major Russian newspaper.

Hienadz Mazheyka, a Belarusian journalist with the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, was arrested this month after writing about a shooting at an apartment in Minsk that killed two people – an opposition supporter and a KGB officer, the service of Belarusian state security.

Mazheyka’s report on the shootings in Belarus’ capital quoted a friend describing the late opposition supporter in a positive light. The journalist faces up to 12 years in prison for inciting social war and insulting the authorities.

Belarusian authorities called the opposition supporter a “dangerous criminal” and claimed he shot a KGB officer before others shot back and killed him. Authorities arrested more than 200 people who posted comments on social media about the incident.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday during a visit to Belarus that he had discussed the situation of Russian media in the country and that they had “a common understanding of the need to create optimal conditions for Russian media in Belarus and Belarusian media in Russia. “Lavrov said without further details.

Komsomolskaya Pravda responded to Mazheyka’s arrest by closing its branch in Belarus. Russian officials have expressed regret over the situation, but have not criticized Belarusian authorities, which have close political, economic and military ties with Russia.

Russia has firmly backed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has unleashed a fierce crackdown on the opposition and independent media after months of massive protests.

More than 35,000 people have been arrested and thousands beaten by police for protesting Lukashenko’s election to a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition and the West have denounced as a sham .

Moscow’s loans and political support helped Lukashenko consolidate his regime amid Western protests and sanctions.

As part of the crackdown, Belarusian authorities shut down major independent media, blocked access to popular news sites and targeted journalists with raids and detentions.

A total of 28 journalists in Belarus, including Mazheyka, are currently behind bars, either already convicted and sentenced or awaiting trial.

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