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Ambassador Huntsman: Russia Should 'Quit Playing Games' With U.S. Detainee
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PRAGUE -- The U.S. ambassador to Russia has urged Moscow to either produce evidence in the case of jailed U.S. citizen Paul Whelan or release him.

"If there's a case, I think the evidence would have been brought forward by now," Ambassador Jon Huntsman told RFE/RL's Russian Service in an exclusive interview in Prague on April 12. "So, for me, as the senior American official in Russia, I hope that he is released as quickly as possible."

"If there is no evidence, and the Russians have not shown that there is any evidence so far, then let's move on," Huntsman added. "Let's move on and quit playing these games."

The comments come at a time of high tension between Moscow and Washington over, among other things, Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its military involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine that has left more than 10,300 people dead.

Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship, was arrested in Moscow on December 2018 and has been charged with spying. He is currently being held in pretrial detention.

Whelan's family says that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding, and they deny the Russian allegations. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Whelan's detention came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.

Huntsman also said the April 11 decision by a Moscow court to release another American, investment banker Michael Calvey, to house arrest pending his trial on embezzlement charges was "a step in the right direction."

"We hope, as I know his family does, that this is resolved as quickly as possible," Huntsman said.

The full interview with Huntsman will be published on April 13.

The Belarusian Council for Public Morals has in the past protested about Rammstein's concerts in the country. (file photo)

HRODNA, Belarus -- Posting a video on the Internet years ago of the German industrial metal band Rammstein has landed a man in Belarus in hot water with authorities who have charged him with producing and distributing pornographic materials.

Andrey Halavenka told RFE/RL on April 11 that local police had informed him about an investigation launched against him two days earlier.

According to the 24-year-old resident of the western city of Hrodna, he barely remembers posting the clip in 2014 on his account with the Russian social-media site VKontakte.

"I simply forgot about that clip. If [police] hadn’t summoned me I would not have known about its existence," Halavenka said.

In March, the State Committee of Criminal Expertise banned the video of the Rammstein song, titled Pussy, judging it contained "pornographic elements."

Halavenka could face four years in prison if found guilty.

The German rock band have faced problems in Belarus in the past.

In 2010, the Belarusian Council for Public Morals protested against Rammstein's concerts in the country that year, saying the band's shows were "open propaganda of homosexuality, masochism, and other forms of perversions, violence, cruelty and vulgarism."

"At the group's concerts, there are demonstrations of sexual intercourse between males, ejaculations, and imitation of the Nazis," the council said.

Rammstein are no strangers to controversy.

Last month, a video for the group's new song Deutschland showed band members dressed as concentration camp prisoners. It sparked outrage, especially among Jewish groups.

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