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Belarus Extradites Russian Blogger To Azerbaijan

Russian-Israeli blogger Aleksandr Lapshin is collected by Azerbaijani security forces upon his arrival in Baku.

MINSK -- Russian blogger Aleksandr Lapshin has been flown from Minsk to Baku over objections from Moscow that he be sent Russia.

Lapshin's extradition to Azerbaijan on February 7 occurred hours after the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a lower court to send Lapshin to Baku.

The Russian blogger, who also has Israeli citizenship, is wanted by Azerbaijan on allegations of supporting the independence of Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Belarusian Deputy State Prosecutor Alyaksey Stuk signed the extradition order on January 18.

Lapshin, who lives in Moscow and writes a Russian-language travel blog, was detained in Minsk in mid-December on the basis of Baku's extradition request.

Azerbaijani prosecutors accuse Lapshin of illegally visiting Nagorno-Karabakh in 2011 and 2012 and calling for the recognition of the breakaway region's independence by posting two statements online.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Minsk to "unconditionally" release Lapshin.

"Lapshin should not be jailed for expressing his opinions or traveling to a disputed region," Nina Ognianova, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a January 13 statement.

If Lapshin is convicted in Baku, he could face up to eight years in prison there.