Belarus punishes 2 Russians for unconfirmed guilt

A Belorussian court has found two Russian citizens who were charged of disorder during opposition’s rallies in Minsk guilty, though no sufficient proof of that has been revealed. The sentence, however, was rather mild – both had to pay a 100 thousand rubles’ fee – but Russia believes that this is still too much of a punishment for a totally unconfirmed guilt.

It is hard to say what stood behind the decision of the judge Lyubov Semakhina and the prosecutor Sergey Kunos. It hasn’t been proven that the accused Russian citizens Artyom Breus and Ivan Gaponov were even present at the rally. The “victims” – several police officers – have testified that they had never seen Mr. Breus and Mr. Gaponov. No crime instruments have been found, no video records confirming that the defendants had attacked these officers have been displayed.

Another thing that raised many eyebrows was that those defendants who were Belorussian citizens were punished more strictly. One of them was sentenced to 3 years of forced work, and four others – to 3 or 4 years of prison.

Here is the opinion of Boris Gusev, an advisor of the Russian embassy in Belarus:

“In total, the Russian embassy welcomes the fact that Mr. Breus and Mr. Gapon have been released – though the embassy has insisted from the very beginning that they are not guilty of anything and must be freed.”

Asked what the conditions in the pre-trial prison were, Artyom Breus said: “The conditions were, more or less, acceptable – but sometimes the investigators threatened us with more severe conditions or with a savage reprisal.”

Independent expert Valentin Stefanovich says that the court has produced no proof that there had been any mass unrest at all. All the accusations against Mr. Breus and Mr. Gaponov are totally groundless, he believes.

Russian ombudsman Oleg Gulak calls the court’s sentence mild but still unjust, for their guilt has not still been proven.

Now, why were the Belorussian judges more indulgent to Russians than to their compatriots? Some analysts believe that the reason is that now, when, after the suppression of the opposition in Minsk on December 19, Europe has introduced sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime, the Belorussian authorities, in desperate search of some other friends, try to be more loyal to Russia. The more so, because, on March 15, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will come to Minsk to take part in a EurAsEC forum and a forum of the Russo-Belorussian union state.


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