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Authors Of Articles For Russian News Agency On Trial In Belarus

The three men on trial look on from the defendants' cage in a courtroom in Minsk on December 18.
The three men on trial look on from the defendants' cage in a courtroom in Minsk on December 18.

Three Belarusians who have contributed articles to the Russian news outlet Regnum went on trial in Minsk on December 18 on hate-crimes charges.

Yury Paulavets, Dzmitry Alimkin, and Syarhey Shyptenka are charged with illegal entrepreneurship and inciting ethnic hatred.

The charges stem from articles in which the defendants expressed pro-Russia views and promoted the idea of closer integration between Belarus and Russia.

If convicted, they could be sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Belarus and its much larger, resource-rich eastern neighbor Russia have very close ties and are part of a "union state" established in the 1990s, though it exists mostly on paper.

But wariness about Moscow's intentions toward its neighbors has increased since Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and fomented separatism in eastern Ukraine, where the ensuing war has killed more than 10,300 people.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has strained ties with the West but now speaks frequently of the need to protect the sovereignty against potential threats from the east, as well.

Regnum is a nongovernmental online news outlet that covers events in Russia and other former Soviet republics.

A fourth suspect in the Belarusian case, Yury Baranchyk, is also a Belarusian citizen but is residing in Russia.

Russian authorities detained Baranchyk in March at Minsk's request but refused to extradite him and later released him.

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    RFE/RL's Belarus Service

    RFE/RL's Belarus Service is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda and defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.