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The U.S. Treasury Department announced on October 18 that it had extended the suspension of sanctions against nine Belarusian oil and chemical companies until April 2017.

Belarus has welcomed a U.S. decision to prolong the suspension of sanctions against nine Belarusian companies.

In an October 19 statement, the Foreign Ministry in Minsk also expressed "confidence" that "full removal of all sanctions would lead to the more dynamic development of Belarus-America ties."

The U.S. Treasury Department announced on October 18 that it had extended the suspension of sanctions against nine Belarusian oil and chemical companies until April 30, 2017.

Washington imposed sanctions against the state-owned companies in June 2006 in response to human rights violations in Belarus.

In October 2015, Washington suspended the sanctions for six months after Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka released several political prisoners and brokered cease-fire talks between Ukraine, Russia, and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The suspension had been extended by another six months in April 2016.

With reporting by BelTA
Max Boqaev (left) and Talghat Ayan in an Atyrau courtroom on October 18.

The trial of two participants in a mass protest against Kazakhstan's land reforms has been adjourned.

A court in the western city of Atyrau adjourned the trial for an indefinite time on October 19 after one of the defendants, Maks Boqaev, was unable to attend a court hearing due to health problems.

The trial against Boqaev and Talghat Ayan started on October 12. The two are charged with inciting social discord, intentionally distributing false information, and organizing illegal public gatherings.

Boqaev and Ayan were detained on April 24 in the center of Atyrau, where thousands of people had gathered to protest against a bill on land privatization and land leasing to foreigners.

The protests in Atyrau were followed by mass protests across Kazakhstan for almost two weeks.

The protesters expressed concern that the bill would allow foreigners to own farmland in Kazakhstan.

Rights watchdogs have called on Kazakh authorities to release Boqaev and Ayan, saying they have a right to express their views publicly.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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