Russia summons Belarus ambassador to protest arrests
Russia summoned the Belarussian ambassador Tuesday to express its disappointment with the arrest of a group of its citizens in riots that followed President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election.
Russia has made repeated calls on its neighbour to release the 11 citizens detained during the December 19 protests. A Minsk court ruled Monday that the group had to remain in prison while the investigations continued.
"The Russian foreign ministry once again underscores the need to immediately release all the Russian citizens detained in Minsk," the ministry said in a statement.
"Their further detention damages the political atmosphere of (our) bilateral relations," the statement added.
Belarus arrested more than 600 people after a massive rally gathered in central Minsk to protest presidential elections that Western observers said fell well short of democratic norms.
Belarussian police also launched sweeping raids on opposition homes and offices as part of its crackdown on protests following Lukashenko's re-election to a fourth term.
The crackdown on protesters and the poor quality of the election drew strong criticism from Europe and the United States but Russia said the vote was its neighbour's "internal affair".
On Saturday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev finally congratulated Lukashenko on his re-election even though his statement was conspicuously dry.
© 2010 AFP