Russia criticises jailing of Lukashenko opponents
Russia on Monday criticised Belarus for jailing opponents of strongman President Alexander Lukashenko after they took part in protests against his re-election on December 19.
The foreign ministry said in a statement that the sentences, including the the five-year prison term handed to Lukashenko's main rival Andrei Sannikov, were "harsh" and Minsk should abide by its human rights commitments.
"The verdicts can only arouse questions," it said, saying the Russian leadership had in the past already made clear its position to Belarus.
"We call on the Belarussian side to abide more responsibly to its international commitments on human rights and freedoms," it added.
Although cautiously worded compared to the strong statements of condemnation from the West, the comments mark a rare public criticism of Minsk by Moscow over its rights record.
President Dmitry Medvedev had said after hundreds of opposition activists were arrested on December 19 that the elections were an "internal affair" of Belarus and did not offer any criticism of the crackdown.
Thirty people have now been convicted in post-election trials, of whom 22 were given jail terms.
© 2011 AFP