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Four Belarusian Opposition Activists Released After Blast


One of the injured in the Minsk explosion

One of the injured in the Minsk explosion

MINSK -- Four detained opposition activists in Belarus have been released without charge after being questioned about a bomb explosion at a concert attended by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

More than 50 people were wounded in the July 4 blast at an event in Minsk marking Belarus's national holiday. Officials describe the explosion as "hooliganism," playing down any political dimension, and Lukashenka has vowed not to launch a crackdown ahead of a parliamentary election next month.

The opposition says about a dozen activists were detained.

"Four people detained on July 7-8 were released today, including my husband Miroslav Lazovsky," said Nina Shidlovskaya, deputy head of the World Union of Belarussians, a group representing ethnic Belarussians worldwide. "Of course, no charges were pressed against any of them. They were only questioned twice over all this time. Ten days passed and they were released."

The four once belonged to the White Legion, a nationalist paramilitary group founded in the 1990s and now disbanded.

Some opposition officials say the detentions could compromise the parliamentary election and have suggested they may boycott the poll. Western leaders accuse the authorities of violating fundamental rights, and Lukashenka hopes the election will show Belarus adheres to democratic principles.

Several activists were released in recent days and officials from various groups said four remained in detention. Suspects may be held for 10 days without charge under Belarussian law.

Officials and police have said nothing about any roundup.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said only that no charges had been laid. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Police this week launched house-to-house questioning in apartment blocks, with officers asking residents about their whereabouts at the time of the explosion, where they performed their military service, and whether they saw active combat duty.

Within days of the explosion, Lukashenka dismissed the head of the influential security council and his own chief of staff.

On July 15, he appointed Yuri Zhadobin, the head of the security service, still known by its Soviet-era KGB initials, as chairman of the security council.
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