Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 152

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and officials of his administration and KGB announced yesterday that criminal charges of conspiracy to violate the border have been filed against the four-man team from Russia’s state-controlled ORT TV network who were arrested on August 15 near the Belarus-Lithuania border. (See Monitor, August 18) In a flurry of angry statements, Lukashenka and his officials claimed yesterday that the ORT team leader, Anatoly Adamchuk, and his companions have apologized and admitted to acting under orders from Russian officials to stage a "political provocation" against the Belarusan government. The president described the incident as part of alleged attempts by certain Moscow officials to discredit the Russia-Belarus Union.

In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesman Valery Nesterushkin cited a "request conveyed to Lukashenka on behalf of the Russian leadership to release the Russian journalists as a goodwill gesture." Russia’s ambassador in Minsk, Valery Loshchinin, praised the Belarusan authorities for allowing Russian representatives to visit some of the jailed journalists and supported Lukashenka’s claim that Adamchuk had "freely and fully" repented. Loshchinin implied that Lukashenka would release the journalists following public exposure of the details of the incident. ORT management yesterday denied any wrongdoing and condemned the persecution of journalists in Belarus. (Russian agencies, ORT, August 18)

The Russian government has recently put up with Minsk’s expulsion of a Russian NTV correspondent; and it fell silent after a brief spasm of indignation over the July 25 jailing of ORT journalists Pavel Sheremet and Dmitry Zavadsky in Belarus. The two face trial on charges of violating Belarusan border regulations. Adamchuk’s team intended to film the Belarus-Lithuania border sector where their colleagues had been arrested and to report on their plight in detention.

Ballooning Trade Deficit Causes Belarus’s to Consider Import Deposits.