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Former Belarus Intelligence Officer Gets Asylum In Lithuania

MINSK -- A former soldier in a Belarusian military intelligence unit, Stsyapan Zakharchanka, has been granted political asylum in Lithuania.

Zakharchanka told RFE/RL on March 18 that Lithuanian authorities made the asylum decision last week.

He said he would be allowed to stay in the European Union for five years.

Zakharchanka made headlines in the summer of 2011 after he defected to Lithuania.

He later explained his decision to defect, saying his life was being threatened.

Zakharchanka said he was severely beaten and hospitalized after refusing to sign an agreement to shoot at unarmed protesters in Belarus if ordered to do so by his supervisors.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry has rejected Zakharchanka's accusations.

Zakharchanka says he was grateful to the Lithuanian authorities and has no plans to leave Lithuania for any other European Union country.