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Thirty-three Russians remanded in custody in Belarus

The criminal investigation was launched on July 29 under Articles 13 and 293 part 2 of the Criminal Code (preparation for mass riots)

MINSK, August 1. /TASS/. The Belarusian Attorney’s Office has ruled that the 33 detained Russian men should be remanded in custody, Chairman of the Investigation Committee Ivan Noskevich said at a meeting with President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday.

"The main investigation directorate of the Investigation Committee’s central office continues an active phase of the criminal investigation launched on July 29 under Articles 13 and 293 part 2 of the Criminal Code (preparation for mass riots). Thirty-three citizens of the Russian Federation were recognized as suspects in this criminal case, and they were detained. On July 31, the investigation ruled and the prosecutor approved that they would be remanded in custody," Noskevich said, quoted by BelTA as saying.

According to Noskevich, the Russians entered Belarus in the evening of July 24 to allegedly take a Minsk-Istanbul flight.

"Some suspects say about the 10.50 flight. Nevertheless, having enough time to check in, and respectively, to leave the country, the group went past the airport and accommodated at the IBB hotel in Minsk," the Investigation Committee head said.

The Russian nationals had booked rooms in the hotel in advance and simultaneously reserved accommodation at the Belorusochka holiday center outside Minsk.

"In order to support the conclusions about those individuals’ weird behavior, the investigators cracked the detainees’ phones to find out that they were expecting several other groups of their colleagues - citizens of the Russian Federation. In addition, we were tipped off that almost all of them have serious combat experience, as they were fighting in east Ukraine," Noskevich said.

"Nearly all of them are members of the Vagner ‘private military company’," he alleged. "It is obvious that no other judgement against those individuals were expected, but for detention and other procedural measures," he added.

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".