Belarus fines Russians over anti-Lukashenko protests

MINSK Agence France-Presse

A Belarus court on Thursday fined two Russians 3,300 dollars for a public order offence during protests against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, an AFP journalist reported.

The pair had faced up to 15 years in prison for joining the anti-Lukashenko rallies but the court failed to follow a prosecution request for a 5,600-dollar fine, "given their young age and positive elements in their behavior."

Artiom Breus and Ivan Gaponov were freed after the court ruling. The court also sentenced a Belarus businessman to three years' restricted freedom of movement for the same offence. He was barred from travelling abroad and leaving his home at night and must report to the police regularly.

A total 42 government opponents including several presidential candidates had been charged with breaching the peace in the December protests following the election which returned Lukashenko to power. Demonstrators briefly attacked government offices during the protest and riot police arrested several hundred protesters.

Three opposition candidates are still being detained, four are under house arrest and under secret police surveillance at their homes. The European Union and the United States have denounced Lukashenko's Dec. 19 re-election as fraudulent, boycotted his inauguration and slapped sanctions on members of his regime.

The ballot result gave Lukashenko - dubbed Europe's last dictator by Washington - a fourth term in office, extending his rule that stretches back to 1994.


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