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Russians detained in Belarus were first from 180-200-strong group, Lukashenko claims

Belarusian president also calls on law enforcers not to get tough on detained Russians
The President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko Nikolai Petrov/BELTA/TASS
The President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko
© Nikolai Petrov/BELTA/TASS

MINSK, August 1. /TASS/. The 33 Russian men apprehended in Belarus were the first from a group of 180-200, who were meant to be deployed to the country to destabilize the situation, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Saturday at a meeting with Chairman of the State Security Committee Valery Vakulchik and Chairman of the Investigation Committee Ivan Noskevich.

"Good job to detect that it was the first group. I can see that it was a first group from 180 to 200 people who were meant to be inserted into Belarus. And yet, when I say it, I have read a report, it is accurate information today. And the attempt to ‘hide a tail’ in Russia and allege that they have almost agreed that group’s arrival with us is complete nonsense," BelTA news agency said citing Lukashenko as saying.

Lukashenko pointed out that Belarus was ready for cooperation with Russia on the case of the Russian nationals detained in Minsk.

"We will not build politics on lies. We will not find a solution shouting down each other. Therefore, if any of the Russians wants to get extra information, we are always open. We conceal nothing, but we need the truth," Lukashenko emphasized.

The Belarusian president called on law enforcers not to get tough with the detained Russian nationals.

"They [the Russians - TASS] are certainly guilty, but not so much that some tough measures should be taken against them. They are soldiers. They were given orders and off they went. We have to deal with those who were giving orders and who were sending them in here," he said.

Lukashenko added that "elder brothers have become quiet."

"They are not shouting any more that they sent those guys to Istanbul. There was no Istanbul and could not be, as it turned out. It is clear that the group had other goals. And the investigation’s task is to find out those goals," he claims.

According to Lukashenko, when Belarus hosts events with participation of Russian service members, the two countries’ profile agencies maintain regular contacts.

"Only the president can give permission for arrival of military personnel, for a visit to Belarus. With or without hardware, planes, helicopters and so on. No permission was issued. Moreover, we have serious suspicions about the goals that the group set out," Lukashenko said.

"Work carefully, but the truth should be brought to light," Lukashenko asked the heads of law enforcement bodies.

Detention of Russian nationals

Belarus reported earlier that 33 Russian men were detained in the country in the early hours of July 29. Minsk said they were contractors of a foreign private military company. According to the latest reports, they are suspected of masterminding mass unrest. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in response that the group of Russian men was travelling to Istanbul, with a transit stopover in Minsk, and that they had all the required papers, including air tickets to their ultimate destination. Belarus’ Investigation Committee claims that the Russians were not going to take a flight to Istanbul from Minsk.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on July 31 that Moscow had not been provided with complete information about the incident, including about any illegal activities that could prompt the arrest of the Russian nationals. Peskov dismissed allegations about a link between the incident and the upcoming presidential election in Belarus as "speculations".