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Associated Press reporter Yuras Karmanau

A Belarusian court has ordered an Associated Press reporter to disavow a report he wrote showing high levels of radioactivity in milk produced near the Belarusian territory irradiated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Yuras Karmanau visited a dairy farm in the area and obtained a milk sample. Testing by Belarus's state-run Minsk Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology found the radioactive isotope Strontium-90 in the milk sample at a concentration 10 times higher than Belarusian law allows.

The state-run Milkavita dairy products plant, whose supply chain includes that farm's milk, sued Karmanau on the grounds that his reporting damaged the company's reputation.

The Supreme Court ordered reporter Yuras Karmanau to pay for Milkavita's legal costs.

It also ordered him to write a letter to AP’s management in New York, saying the laboratory test results Karmanau commissioned as part of his report "do not correspond with reality."

AP issued a statement on March 16 saying it "unreservedly stands" behind Karmanau. The news agency said a lower court denied Karmanau's motions to introduce evidence from the test or show how the sample was collected.

Dairy and other agriculture exports make up a sizable part of Belarus's exports.

Based on reporting by AP

Russian authorities have moved to shut down the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, asking the country’s Supreme Court to declare the denomination an extremist organization.

If successful, the appeal by the Justice Ministry, filed with the court on March 15, would be the first time that an entire registered religious denomination had been banned in Russian law.

The denomination, which says it has 170,000 adherents in Russia, said the appeal specifically targets the organization’s main headquarters in St. Petersburg.

An organization spokesman said being labeled extremist would effectively force the entire shutdown of the group’s Russian activities.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of several religious denominations that have come under increasing pressure in Russia in recent years.

A measure known as Yarovaya’s Law that went into effect last year tightens restrictions on the activities of religious groups, particularly smaller denominations like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, and some evangelical sects.

Russian authorities have said the law, which backed by the Russian Orthodox Church, is aimed at helping to fight religious extremism and terrorism.

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