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Russian ambassador, Belarusian interior minister discuss detention of Russian nationals

Belarus said earlier 33 Russian nationals said to be employees of a private foreign military company had been detained overnight to July 29

MOSCOW, July 31. /TASS/. Russian Ambassador to Belarus Dmitry Mezentsev said on Friday he had discussed the situation around the detained Russian nationals with the Belarusian interior minister.

"I had a conversation with Belarusian Interior Minister General Karayev," he said in an interview with the 60 Minutes program on the Rossiya-1 television channel.

According to Mezentsev, Ukraine’s demands concerning extradition of the Russian nations were not discussed during the meeting. "As for contacts with the Ukrainian side, naturally, we did not discuss that because our key task is to have the Russian citizens released the soonest possible, to remove unfair and ungrounded claims that they had pursued unlawful, illegal purposes here," he said.

The Russian diplomat said that the Russians had been placed in a better penitentiary near Minsk that is why a meeting with Russian diplomats had been delayed. He promised that Russian diplomats would try to take into account all their requests at the upcoming meeting. "It is very important today to receive confirmation of the liabilities undertaken by the Belarusian side, i.e. attentive, careful and correct attitude to our nationals," he said.

Belarusian accusations 

Russian citizens detained in Belarus earlier this week did not plan to fly to Istanbul, despite having valid air tickets, investigative group head Alexander Agafonov told the ONT TV channel on Friday.

"It is evident that, while carrying out organized preparations for committing a crime, the miscreants were preparing an alibi. This was the case with the detention of the 33 Russian citizens, who had tickets for a flight to Istanbul on July 25. However, as investigators had found out, they did not plan to fly there," he said.

Agafonov added that the Russian nationals had been interrogated by investigators in the presence of defense attorneys.

"All those detained have been interrogated in the presence of defense attorneys. Their evidence about the reasons for their stay in Belarus is incoherent and contradictory. Eleven of them planned to fly to Venezuela, fifteen wanted to visit Turkey, two - Cuba, one - Syria. One did not even know where he was flying. Three refused to testify," the Investigative Committee spokesman said. "It looks strange that one flight can be bound to so many different destinations."

Belarus said earlier 33 Russian nationals said to be employees of a private foreign military company had been detained overnight to July 29. According to the latest reports, these men are suspected of masterminding mass riots. The Belarusian foreign ministry demanded Russian Ambassador to Belarus Dmitry Mezentsev explain the reasons why these people were staying in Belarus. The ministry also invited Ukrainian charge d’affaires Pyotr Vrublevsky "bearing in mind verified information about participation of some of them in combat operations in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions." The sides agreed to enhance control on the common border.

Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said earlier Moscow did not have complete information about the incident. Neither did it know about any unlawful things that could have served as a reason for their detention. He said that statements that these developments were linked with the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus were mere speculations.