THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MINSK, Belarus -- The Foreign Ministry issued a formal protest on Friday over security for Belarusians participating in student programs in the United States after two students were killed.
The protest, in a note delivered from the ministry to U.S. charge d'affaires, referred to "three tragic incidents" in recent months involving Belarusian students participating in the Summer Work and Travel Program sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the ministry said in a statement.
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Vanshina said two Belarusian students have been murdered in the past three months and another was victimized in an armed robbery.
"If the American authorities are not capable of guaranteeing the security on their territory of foreign citizens, they have to openly warn world society of this," the ministry said in its note.
The ministry went on to say that given the "high level of danger" it will recommend students avoid participating the the program.
Aliaksei Vasileuski, 20, of Belarus was stabbed to death in June in Maine. Vanshina did not give details of the other alleged killing or of the armed robbery.
The U.S. State Department responded that the deaths were tragic but urged continued involvement in the study programs.
"The deaths of the two Belarusian citizens are terrible, albeit wholly unrelated events," said department spokesman Edgar Vasquez.
U.S-Belarusian relations are highly strained, with Washington characterizing President Alexander Lukashenko as "Europe's last dictator" and Lukashenko accusing the United States of plotting against him.