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Iran Press TV

Kremlin urges Belarus to release 33 detained Russians

Iran Press TV

Friday, 31 July 2020 5:49 PM

Russia has urged Belarus to immediately release 33 Russian private security contractors detained on terrorism charges, dismissing the accusations against them as bogus.

"The unwarranted detention of the 33 Russian citizens doesn't fit into the framework of the allied relations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call with reporters on Friday.

"We expect our Belarusian allies to clear up this incident immediately and release our citizens," he said.

Peskov further explained that the Russian citizens had been en route to an unspecified country when they were detained after missing a connecting flight to Istanbul at the airport in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.

"They have done nothing wrong and carried no illegal items," he added.

On Wednesday, Belarus arrested the employees of private Russian military contractor Wagner, accusing them of plotting terror attacks in Belarus amid the country's presidential election campaign.

The allegations represent an unprecedented escalation of tensions with neighboring Russia.

Some observers see the move as a campaign stunt by Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, who seeks a sixth term in the country's presidential election, set for August 9.

The 65-year-old president is campaigning to maintain his post amid mass opposition protests and the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

Belarusian election officials have barred Lukashenko's two main rivals from running in the presidential election next month.

The move sparked mass protects in Minsk, with police detaining more than 250 people.

Relations between Minsk and Moscow initially soured last year after the two sides failed to agree on an oil supply contract for this year.

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