Belarus prosecutors to bring new charges against Russians

MINSK, March 1 (Itar-Tass) - Hearings in the criminal case of two Russian citizens - Artyom Breus, 28, and Ivan Gaponov, 22, will be continued on Tuesday at the Moskovsky District Court of the Belarusian capital after a week’s recess. The recess was announced in connection with the public prosecutor’s request on bringing new charges against the Russians. The prosecution official said that this need arose after questioning of witnesses and study of written and video materials.

Breus and Gaponov were detained in Minsk on December 19 last year - the day of the presidential election. Then, thousands of supporters of opposition candidates for president of Belarus met in the city centre to protest against, they claimed, falsified election results and demand a new vote. During this unauthorised action a group of people tried to break into the Government House, during which windows and doors were broken in the building. The authorities used police SWAT units and interior troops against the protesters. Dozens of people were beaten. Nearly 700 people were detained, including more than 10 Russian citizens, including Breus and Gaponov.

Most of the detainees were sentenced to administrative arrest. Under pressure from Russian diplomats all Russian citizens were released on December 29. However, on the same day Breus and Gaponov were re-arrested and placed in a detention centre within a criminal case on mass disorders. According to the country’s legislation, the punishment for taking part in them is imprisonment for a term of 3 to 8 years.

The prosecution side failed to present tangible evidence of guilt of Gaponov and Breus both during the preliminary investigation and during the launched trial. The Russians have pleaded not guilty. They said that they accidentally found themselves at the protest action, they did not offer any kind of resistance, the more so armed, as the investigation claimed, to policemen. In turn, two police officers who appeared in court as witnesses were confused in their testimony, which contradicted their written reports previously written.

The arrest of Breus and Gaponov, their totally groundless detention in custody has caused quite a severe reaction from the Russian side. Thus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called their holding under arrest in Belarus inadmissible and the charges brought against them - not serious.


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