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Jailed Belarusian ex-Air Force chief ‘lobbied interests of Russian firm’

RIA Novosti

12:14 14/12/2011 MINSK, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - Igor Azarenok, former chief of the Belarusian air and missile defense forces who was sentenced to nine years in prison on corruption charges, was lobbying the interests of a Russian company, the Belta news agency quoted Belarusian Deputy Prosecutor General Alexei Stuk as saying on Wednesday.

“Igor Azarenok has been convicted of taking a bribe for lobbying the interests of a Russian enterprise supplying certain equipment,” Stuk told journalists in Minsk.

Azarenok was reported to have been arrested in December 2010, the day after presidential elections won by long-standing President Alexander Lukashenko. The polls, which both international observers and the Belarusian opposition described as flawed, were followed by a brutal police crackdown on an opposition protest rally in central Minsk, in which some 600 people were arrested.

During a trial on Monday, which took place behind closed doors, Azarenok was found guilty of accepting 138 million Belarusian rubles (around $16,000 today or more than $30,000 in 2010) in bribes and was handed nine years in a high security prison. He was also stripped of his major general’s title.

In the same trial, Andrei Mashkautsan, a Russian, was found guilty of instigating corruption and sentenced to six years in a high security prison.

Also on Monday, the head of the Belarusian public security police, Yevgeny Poluden, was reported to have been arrested in Minsk on charges of abusing his office. According to Belarusian human rights activists, Poluden was in charge of a police crackdown on demonstrators during last summer’s “clapping” protests against Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule.

Some analysts have suggested that the arrests were intended to boost Lukashenko’s image of a fair ruler and irreconcilable fighter against mafia and corruption.

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