MOSCOW, August 7. /TASS/. Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus held a telephone conversation, discussing the detention of Russian nationals in Belarus, the Kremlin press service said in a statement on Friday.
"There was an exchange on the recent detention of 33 Russian nationals in Belarus. There was confidence that the situation will be resolved in the spirit of mutual understanding that cooperation between the two countries is based on," the statement reads.
The sides agreed to cooperate to bring those responsible to justice, the BelTA news agency reported after the two leaders’ telephone conversation citing the press service of the Belarusian president. "The desire to work together to sort out the matter was emphasized. The presidents agreed to thoroughly study every available fact in order to establish the true causes of the current situation, find those responsible and bring them to justice."
The Russian president told his Belarusian counterpart that Moscow is interested in maintaining stability in Belarus and wants to see the upcoming presidential election held in a calm atmosphere, the Kremlin press service commented, following the phone call between the two leaders.
"[The phone call] clearly underlined that the Russian side is interested in upholding a stable domestic political situation in Belarus and holding the upcoming presidential election in a calm atmosphere," the statement runs.
Putin and Lukashenko also discussed "pressing issues related to the development of brotherly relations between Russia and Belarus," the Kremlin press service added.
Last time, the leaders spoke on the phone on June 19. After that, they met in person on June 24 and June 30 at the Victory Parade in Moscow and at the unveiling ceremony of the Rzhev Memorial in Russia’s Tver Region.
Belarus is holding the presidential election on August 9, while early voting has been ongoing since August 4. Five candidates are vying for the presidential office, including incumbent President Lukashenko. The election campaign is marred by arrests of opposition politicians and activists as well as unauthorized protests. Earlier, the European Union and the United States expressed concerns about these incidents and called on Belarusian authorities to hold a free election.
Belarus announced the detention of 33 Russian nationals on the night of July 29. The Russians are accused of plotting mass riots. Lukashenko said in his state of the nation address on Tuesday that the Russians had been sent to Belarus with a purpose. Belarus was reported to have handed a list of the detained Russians over to Kiev. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said that Ukrainian passport holders could be on the list, whom Kiev would consider to be Ukrainian nationals.
Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in turn, noted that Moscow did not recognize the Ukrainian citizenship of some of the detained people. He pointed out that the Russian citizens had planned to travel to another country via Belarus. According to the Kremlin spokesman, they are employees of a private security company and their stay in Minsk had nothing to do with Belarusian domestic affairs.