Belarus says Russian documentary 'blasphemous'

5th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Belarus reacted angrily on Monday after Russian television aired a documentary film critical of President Alexander Lukashenko and linking him to the disappearance of opponents.

The half-hour film aired on pro-government NTV just after Belarus and Russia ended an acrimonious energy dispute in which Lukashenko used Belarus's transit of Russian gas to Europe as a bargaining chip.

"Putting up blasphemous accusations against the head of a state is unacceptable and criminal," the press spokesman for the Belarus embassy in Moscow, Vitaly Slivka, told the Echo of Moscow radio station.

The state English-language channel Russia Today also showed a critical news item on Lukashenko on Sunday, headlined "Lukashenko accused of failing obligations with both East and West.

A source in Lukashenko's delegation as he visited Kazakhstan told the state news agency Belta that Russian channels "which are only nominally independent" had "poured a tub of dirt" on Lukashenko.

NTV is owned by Gazprom-Media Holding, the gas giant's media subsidiary.

The airing of the film late Sunday came two days after Gazprom and Belarus signed a deal ending a dispute over gas prices that temporarily reduced gas flows to Europe.

The documentary titled "Godfather Batka" linked Lukashenko to the mysterious disappearances of opponents including a former ally turned opposition politician Viktor Gonchar and former interior minister Yury Zakharenko.

Gonchar was last seen in September 1999 while Zakharenko disappeared in May 1999 after being dismissed from his post and joining the opposition. Witnesses saw him being grabbed by masked men, the documentary said.

Lukashenko is known universally at home as Batka, meaning father.

The documentary criticised Lukashenko's terrier-like hold on power, saying that he had a "pathological longing to stay in power come what may."

It also touched on Lukashenko's love life: the married leader, 55, is often seen in the company of his young son Kolya, believed to be five.

Lukashenko seized the boy from his mother, his former personal doctor, Irina Abelskaya, the documentary alleged.

© 2010 AFP

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