The Belarusan KGB yesterday released transcripts of tapped telephone conversations of the Russian ORT TV’s Minsk bureau staff. It also released video and written records of statements made by arrested members of the ORT team that had arrived last week in Belarus from Moscow. The materials purport to substantiate President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s and the Belarusan prosecutors’ charge that the Russian state-controlled TV company organized a campaign against the government of Belarus and violated the country’s laws in the process. In one of the videotaped statements, made in the presence of a Russian diplomat and aired yesterday on Belarus television, ORT team leader Anatoly Adamchuk is shown admitting that the team broke Belarusan laws on orders from ORT management and requesting to be allowed to stay on in Belarus "in order to repair the harm done."
Also yesterday, Belarus authorities temporarily detained (short of officially arresting) the last member of ORT’s Minsk bureau who was still at liberty and forced him to testify in the criminal investigation which is being conducted against his colleagues.
Meanwhile the deputy chief of Lukashenka’s administration, Ivan Pashkevich, along with First Deputy Prime Minister Pyatr Prakapovich, expressed the hope that the situation would not undermine broader cooperation between Belarus and Russia.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also persisted in that hope yesterday, with. spokesman Valery Nesterushkin explaining that "the Belarusan colleagues’ position strictly adheres to Belarusan legislation." Moscow has asked Minsk to consider releasing the ORT journalists from jail as a "humanitarian exception" and in the interest of bilateral relations, Nesterushkin stated. It was left to Russia’s deputy prime minister for social affairs, Oleg Sysuyev, to describe the jailing of Russian journalists in Belarus as "outrageous, repulsive, and dastardly." But Sysuyev hastened to add that he spoke "as a human being, not as an official." Thus far, only Russian journalists and an association of independent Belarusan journalists have publicly condemned the arrest of the Russian reporters in Belarus. Two ORT journalists have been in jail since July 25 and another four since August 15. (Russian agencies and TV, August 19; see also Monitor, August 18 & 19)
Tajik Government Declares Victory Over Mutineers.