Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 151

Belarus border guards on August 15 arrested a four-man crew of Russia’s state-controlled ORT television network for allegedly attempting to cross the Belarus-Lithuania border illegally. The group, including three Russian citizens and one Belarusan, is now being held by the Internal Affairs Ministry of Belarus for investigation. ORT had assigned its crew to film a report on the plight of the network’s Minsk bureau chief, Pavel Sheremet, and his cameraman. Those two Russian citizens have been detained by the Belarusan authorities since July 26 and face trial on charges of violating the Belarus-Lithuania border in the course of a filming assignment.

The second ORT team had intended to visit their colleagues at their place of detention in the city of Hradna. However, ORT management in Moscow conceded that the team may have changed its initial plan and visited the border sector where Sheremet’s crew had been arrested. Last month’s arrest caused an outcry from the Russian government and media, and the latest incident is likely to exacerbate the verbal polemics if the four-man team is not released promptly. Belarusan president Alyaksandr Lukashenka has publicly praised the actions of his authorities in both cases, accusing ORT and Russian media in general of jeopardizing the Russia-Belarus Union through "denigration" of Belarus. (Russian agencies, ORT, August 15-17)

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