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Russia: Union Of Journalists Condemns Journalists' Detention

Moscow/Minsk, 30 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russia's Union of Journalists has condemned the detention by Belarus authorities of three Russian television journalists, saying the action was prompted by paranoia and brought to mind the old Soviet dictatorship.

The union's condemnation follows a statement by Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who Monday warned Russia's media to stop what he labeled as an "information war" against Belarus.

ORT-TV reporters Pavel Sheremet, Dmitry Zavadsky and Yaroslav Ovchinnikov were arrested on Sunday and charged with illegally crossing the Belarusian border with Lithuania while preparing a report. The three are now being held by the Belarus KGB in pre-trial detention in Grodno.

Belarus's independent Belapan news agency says a decision is expected by today on whether they will be freed pending their trial.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has acknowledged the reporters may have technically broken the law but it has expressed concern at the limitation of journalists' rights in Belarus. The director of ORT-TV, Sergei Blagovolin, has sent a letter to President Yeltsin to ask him to personally intervene.