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Lawyer: Belarusian-American Political Strategist Jailed In Minsk Needs Medical Assistance

Vitali Shkliarov
Vitali Shkliarov

A Belarusian-American political strategist who has been held in a Minsk jail for nearly six weeks has suffered a broken finger and had a high fever in recent days, his lawyer said, with his jailers refusing his demands to test him for COVID-19.

Vitali Shkliarov’s detention by Belarusian security agents in late July has spurred increasingly urgent warnings from U.S. government officials, who have called his jailing “unjust.”

Shkliarov, who has worked on political campaigns for former U.S. President Barack Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders, has had a constant cough and high fever for several days, his lawyer Anton Gashinsky told RFE/RL.

His client has demanded that he be tested for the coronavirus, but jail officials have refused, Gashinsky said. In response to his fever, a jail medic prescribed him only a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Gashinsky said he visited the Minsk jail where Shkliarov is being held on September 11, but that he was not allowed to see him.

Shkliarov, who has also worked on the political campaign of the Russian socialite Ksenia Sobchak, was arrested on July 29, 10 days before Belarus held its presidential election.

He has said he was visiting relatives in rural Belarus.

But law enforcement officials have asserted he was trying to assist blogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski to register as a candidate in the election. Tsikhanouski was himself detained prior to the election; his wife, Svyatlana, then stood for election in his place and has since become a leading Belarusian opposition activist.

On August 7, Belarusian prosecutors charged Tsikhanouski with organizing mass disorders. He could get up to three years in prison if convicted.

In a first-person statement released by Gashinsky in early August, Shkliarov likened his conditions to that of the Soviet gulag prison camps, and he said his jailers were trying to pressure him psychologically.

"They are trying to break me using all means possible," he wrote.

In a public statement on September 8, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo specifically named Shkliarov, calling his detention unjust and saying he should be released immediately.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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