Eight Russians held in post-election Belarus: ministry

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Russia said Wednesday that eight Russians have been detained in Belarus following riots quashed by President Alexander Lukashenko in the wake of his re-election to a fourth-term in Sunday's vote.

"As of today we have information about eight Russian citizens who have been placed in temporary detention facilities on the pretext of participating in illegal rallies," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

It added that they have been detained for a period of between ten to 15 days but have not complained about theit treatment.

"The Russian embassy in Minsk is currently doing everything possible to have the detained Russian citizens released," the foreign ministry said. None of the detained Russians have complained of their detention conditions or treatment, the ministry added.

All in all, some 600 demonstrators were detained during a mass rally against the highly controversial re-election of Lukashenko, sparking fierce Western condemnation.

The protesters are to be held for up to 15 days while prosecutors probed their alleged involvement in "organising mass disturbances" -- a crime that carries a sentence of up to 15 years, officials said.

While Belarussian opposition and the West have condemned the polls as fraudulent, Russia conspicuously refrained from passing a judgement on the vote, with President Dmitry Medvedev saying the election was the neighboring country's "internal matter."

Lukashenko has in recent months sought to move Minsk away from Soviet-era master Russia's orbit as he sought closer ties with the European Union.

In the run-up to the vote however he received some key last-minute economic concessions from the Kremlin in a move that observers say essentially encouraged Lukashenko's brutal post-election treatment of the opposition.

© 2010 AFP

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