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Diplomat says detention of 33 Russians in Minsk was third country’s provocation

Maria Zakharova noted that this story was presented "as almost an operation of Russia’s to deploy some specially trained people to destabilize the neighboring country"

SOLNECHNOGORSK /outside Moscow/, August 8. /TASS/. The detention of 33 Russian nationals was a carefully designed provocation of a third state, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday.

"The story about 33 Russian citizens detained in Belarus has been rocking the information space for a week minimum. It was presented as almost a Russian operation to deploy some specially trained people to destabilize our neighboring country. And what has turned out? It happened to be a third country’s provocation as is now being established based on the facts," she said.

"People have lived on that for a week. Over a week, it was a talking point, articles were written, conclusions made, an outlook on the future shaped," she said. "How difficult it will be to give up the assertion that has been shaped in those recent days, as it is hard to admit being wrong."

Zakharova also noted that It is unacceptable to use the situation with Russian nationals detained in Belarus for electoral purposes.

"Those people’s guilt has not been proved. It is inadmissible to use these people for certain electoral purposes or interests," the diplomat said.

"The main thing is that it is inadmissible to use this situation, to promote - as it has already been reiterated at all levels - that performance with participation of Russian citizens for electoral goals."

Citing a source with the Russian intelligence agencies, the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on Friday that the Russian nationals, who were detained in Belarus in late July, fell victim to a provocation orchestrated by the Ukrainian intelligence agencies. The article depicts how the Russians were recruited. The so-called ‘employers’ called from virtual numbers. In the phone calls, they used false identities and fake positons in the Russian major oil company Rosneft.

Belarus reported about the detention of 33 Russian nationals in the early hours of July 29. Minsk claimed they are employees of a foreign private military company. According to latest reports, they are suspected of plotting mass unrest.

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier pointed out that Moscow did not yet have compete information about the incident. Nor did Russia know about any illegal activities that could have prompted their detention. He said that statements that these developments were linked with the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus were mere speculations.