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Belarusian soprano Marharyta Lyauchuk and opposition blogger and songwriter Andrey Pavuk

Police in Belarus have detained the parents of well-known opera singer and opposition activist Marharyta Lyauchuk and searched the home of the former wife of noted opposition blogger and singer Andrey Pavuk.

Lyauchuk, who is currently in self-imposed exile in Lithuania, told RFE/RL that her parents were detained on May 26 in Stradzech, the village where they live in the western Brest region.

According to Lyauchuk, a neighbor who was present when officers searched her parents' house told her that they were handcuffed and taken away by law enforcement officers.

Pro-government Telegram channels said the pair were detained for "disobeying police." In July last year, Belarusian authorities launched a criminal case against Lyauchuk, accusing her of "desecrating the country's national flag." The charge stemmed from a video placed on Lyauchuk's YouTube channel.

Separately, the home of Pavuk's former wife was searched by police on May 26.

Volha Pavuk, who is also currently out of the country, told RFE/RL that her neighbors in the southeastern town of Aktsyabrski informed her about the search. Officers told the neighbors that it was conducted due to "a criminal case launched against Andrey Pavuk."

Pavuk, his former wife, and their children left the country in the wake of anti-government protests questioning the official results of an August 2020 presidential vote that handed a sixth consecutive term in office to strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Pavuk was charged in absentia with publicly insulting a prosecutor and disclosing the personal data of a prosecutor’s aide. He denies the charges.

Lyauchuk and Andrey Pavuk have held several joint singing sessions that were critical of Lukashenka and his government and placed them on YouTube.

Both have been added to the Belarusian Interior Ministry’s registry of wanted persons.

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Russian bailiffs have reportedly seized more than 7.7 billion rubles ($123.2 million) from Alphabet's Google that it had been ordered to pay as part of a fine calculated on the basis of its turnover.

Russian news agencies said on May 26 that Google's name disappeared from the registry of debtors of the Russian Federal Bailiffs' Service (FSSP), concluding that it means the fine had been paid off.

Neither Google nor the FSSP have commented on the issue.

Google's Russian arm said last week that it planned to file for bankruptcy after authorities seized its bank account, making it impossible to pay staff and vendors. Free services such as the company's search engine and YouTube have continued operating.

The decision to fine Google was made by a Moscow court in December for what the court said was the repeated failure to delete content that Russia deems illegal.

The fine was then said to be calculated as a percentage of Google's annual earnings, the first revenue-based fine of its kind in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has accused social media platforms and other tech giants of flouting the country's Internet laws and has initiated a push to force foreign firms to open offices in Russia and store Russians' personal data on its territory.

Many critics say the move is an attempt by Russian authorities to exert tighter control over the Internet and quell dissent.

Last month, a court in Moscow impounded property and froze bank accounts of Google's Russian arm as a guarantee against a possible court decision regarding a lawsuit filed against Google by a subsidiary of Gazprom-Media holding.

Based on reporting by TASS, Interfax, and Reuters

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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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