Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 158

Four journalists from Russia’s state television have been released "in order to preclude further use of the incident as a pretext for harming Russia-Belarus relations," a communique from the office of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said yesterday. The communique, carried by all state media, also warned that the Russian media’s "information war" against Belarus contravenes the aims and principles of the Russia-Belarus Union. In a parallel statement, also yesterday, the Belarus KGB and Prosecutor’s Office charged that Russian media coverage of the criminal proceedings against the Russian journalists Pavel Sheremet and Dmitry Zavadsky, who are still in detention, "aims to pressure the investigators." Proposals to release the two from custody are "inappropriate," the KGB’s and Prosecutor’s statement said.

The opposition Popular Front, meanwhile, called for the immediate release of Sheremet and Zavadsky, and described the incident as a "political game aimed at blocking access to truthful information from Belarus and exacerbating the country’s isolation." (Itar-Tass, Belapan, August 25-26) Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov arrives in Minsk today on instructions from President Boris Yeltsin to negotiate the journalists’ release on humanitarian grounds. Yeltsin’s instructions and the choice of Primakov for the mission corroborate the more candid remarks of the Russian Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that Moscow’s top priority is to avoid damaging its special relations with Minsk. (See also Monitor, August 18-26)

Ukrainian and Russian Ministers Talk of Using ex-Soviet Bombers.