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Russia Demands Belarus Release Its Citizens

A riot policeman chases an opposition protester during a rally denouncing the presidential election results in central Minsk on December 19.
Russia's Foreign Ministry says Belarus should release all Russian citizens detained during the December 19 demonstrations in Minsk following that country's controversial presidential election.

In a telephone call, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Vasily Dolgolyov, Belarus's ambassador to Russia, that Moscow insists on the unconditional release of the 11 Russian citizens detained during the unsanctioned demonstrations in Minsk.

Karasin added that "putting off a solution to this problem is having a negative effect on the overall atmosphere of Russian-Belarusian relations."

Belarusian courts have ordered the 11 Russian nationals held for 10 to 15 days, though it is possible the cases of two of the detained Russians could be heard by the Minsk City Court on December 30.

More than 600 people -- including a number of presidential candidates -- were detained in the demonstrations protesting the reelection of Belarus's longtime leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

compiled from agency reports