Two pro-Russian columnists arrested, facing charge of inciting ethnic hatred
Two contributors to controversial Russian news websites have been arrested and are facing a charge of inciting ethnic hatred over their articles questioning Belarus' statehood and criticizing Alyaksandr Lukashenka for what they described as drifting away from Russia.
The arrested columnists are Dzmitry Alimkin, a school watchman in Brest, and Yury Pawlavets, a professor at Minsk-based Belarusian State University of Informatics and Electronic Engineering, according to the Investigative Committee of Belarus.
Their articles were posted on Russian news websites regnum.ru, lenta.ru and eadaily.com, which are widely accused of fanning Russian chauvinism toward other ex-Soviet nations and spreading anti-Western propaganda.
Mr. Alimkin wrote under the pseudonym of Alla Bron, while Mr. Pawlavets used the pen names of Pavel Yurintsev and Nikolai Radov, said the Investigative Committee.
The criminal cases against the men were opened after a government commission concluded that their articles may foment ethnic hatred.
Investigators have already established that the suspects wrote articles on the instructions of Yury Baranchyk, a Moscow-based Belarusian citizen who is a senior editor at regnum.ru, and received compensation, said Syarhey Kabakovich, spokesman for the Investigative Committee.
The criminal cases may be merged into one and the pair may be charged with incitement of ethnic hatred by a group of persons in concert under Part 3 of the Criminal Code's Article 130, which carries a prison sentence of five to 12 years, said Mr. Kabakovich.
Reports have it that Mr. Pawlavets was arrested on December 6.