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An ethnic Uzbek woman and her infant child pass a burned-out house after the fierce ethnic clashes on the outskirts of Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan, in late June.
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- Residents in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh have urged parliament speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov to ensure that the investigation into ethnic clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June is thorough and fair, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Keldibekov visited Osh on February 22 to familiarize himself with the situation in the region -- the site of deadly violence last summer -- and check the progress of the construction of new apartments and houses for families that lost their homes amid the bloodshed.

More than 400 people died -- mostly ethnic Uzbeks -- and hundreds were wounded during the clashes in Osh and Jalal-Abad. Hundreds of homes and businesses were burned to the ground.

Keldibekov met on February 21 with residents of the Jalal-Abad and Batken oblasts. Ethnic battles also took place in Jalal-Abad but not in Batken, Kyrgyzstan's southernmost region.

In addition to the parliamentary investigation into the ethnic unrest, an OSCE-led international investigation is being conducted with the results due to be released next month. The Kyrgyz government, the Ombudsman's Office, and Human Rights Watch have already released the results of their investigations.

Read more in Kyrgyz here and here
Russian political activists Ivan Gaponov (left) and Artyom Breus sit in the dock during a court hearing in Minsk on February 22.
MINSK -- The trial of two Russian citizens arrested following December protests questioning Belarus's presidential election has begun in Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Artyom Breus and Ivan Gaponov pleaded not guilty to participation in "mass disorder" on Minsk's Independence Square on election night, December 19.

The two were arrested along with hundreds of Belarusian opposition activists who gathered to protest the initial results of the vote, in which incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was the runaway winner. Several opposition presidential candidates were also arrested and jailed.

Breus and Gaponov were released on December 29 but rearrested the same day and officially charged with participation in "mass disorders."

The Russian Embassy in Minsk alleged earlier this month that Belarusian secret services "exerted pressure" on Breus and Gaponov during their investigation.

Gaponov's mother, Sabira Atakishieva, told RFE/RL that although she is concerned about her son, she is "very proud of him and other defendants who remain in Belarusian jails."

In all, 42 men and women have been officially charged with organizing and/or participating in the "mass disorders in Minsk on December 19." They include five opposition presidential candidates, three of whom are still in custody.

Opposition activist Vasil Parfyankou was found guilty earlier this week of participation in the "mass disorders" and sentenced to four years in jail.

Read more in Belarusian here and here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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