Belarusian security officials arrested a pro-government reporter who covered a fatal incident involving the Belarusian security agency KGB and an IT worker in Moscow before transporting him to Minsk, activists called Saturday.
Russian officials and media outlets have criticized the actions and other moves seen as a continuation of the Belarusian authorities’ crackdown on remaining activists and independent media after last year’s unprecedented protests against controversial presidential elections.
Belarusian Viasna Rights Group called At least 86 people were arrested last week in connection with a home raid in Minsk in which IT staffer Andrei Zeltser was alleged to have shot a KGB officer and killed in counterfire. Observers linked the arrests to attempts by the authorities to suppress discussion of the incident.
Among those detained is Gennady Mozheiko, an experienced reporter for the Belarusian edition of the popular Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, according to Viasna. The group called Mozheiko was arrested in Moscow on Friday and is now held in a notorious detention center in Minsk.
Belarus blocked the KP website last Wednesday after it published Mozheiko’s interview with Zeltser’s classmate, who described the 31-year-old as “good”, contrary to what the KGB described as a “serious criminal”. Belarus has refused CP in the country since the controversial presidential election in August 2020, which gave Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in a row and sparked mass protests that resulted in tough crackdown.
KP editor-in-chief Vladimir Sungorkin called the newspaper revised Mozheiko’s interview minutes after it went online because the original “inconsistent with current beliefs” about the shooting incident.
KP called Mozheiko was charged with “inciting hatred” and “insulting the authorities”. These criminal charges carry a maximum of 12 years and 3 years imprisonment if a court finds him guilty.
Russian officials and media representatives criticized the recent crackdown in Belarus, which has close ties to neighboring Russia and is heavily reliant on its loans and military aid to protect against Western sanctions.
“If it turns out that Mozheiko was actually kidnapped from Moscow, it will be a completely different story,” says Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-funded RT broadcaster. tweeted Sunday.
“Even the arrogant and powerful United States of America is not thinking of kidnapping its enemy Snowden from Russia,” wrote Simonyan, referring to the whistleblower behind the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance leaks, who lived in exile in Moscow.
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Sakharova, urged Belarus to “watch Journalists’ rights in line with generally accepted international standards. “