Russian journalist deported from Belarus

AP News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2011 10:10 AM
Russian journalist deported from Belarus

A Russian newspaper journalist working on a report about the opposition in Belarus said Wednesday he was deported overnight from the authoritarian ex-Soviet nation by the secret police.

Igor Karmazin told The Asociated Press he was detained by plainclothes agents after speaking to Irina Khalip, the wife of jailed former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov. The reporter for the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily said his recordings were erased and he was barred from entering Belarus for a year.

"It's a triumph of injustice and trampling of law," Karmazin said.

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko has relentlessly cracked down on dissent and free media during his 17-year rule, prompting the U.S. and the European Union to impose economic and travel sanctions.

Lukashenko has relied on Russia's political and financial support, but has been locked in economic arguments with Moscow and often lashed out at Russian media.

KGB officials refused to comment on Karmazin's claim.

Lukashenko won another term in December in an election that sparked massive street protests against alleged vote fraud. The protests were violently dispersed by riot police and seven of the nine candidates who ran against Lukashenko were arrested, along with some 700 others.

Lukashenko has sought to tighten his grip on the 10-million nation with new legislation that boosts the already sweeping powers of the KGB. His critics saw the move as a reflection of Lukashenko's fear of rising public anger over the country's worst financial crisis since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

The past summer saw a wave of demonstrations against Lukashenko's regime by people who clapped their hands, stomped their feet or simply smiled. Police rounded up demonstrators, who staged their protests through social networks, even though their actions did not violate any law.

The set of legal amendments, passed at a closed session of parliament earlier this month, now give police formal justification for clamping down on those taking part in the protests despite the absence of any political demands.

Lukashenko said Wednesday that his government has learned the lessons of the Arab Spring uprisings that have ousted repressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and knows how to deal with protests organized through social networks. "We have learned how to deal with this evil," he said.