Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Embassy accuses authorities of exerting psychological pressure on Russians charged in riot case

The Russian embassy in Minsk has accused the Belarusian authorities of attempting to exert psychological pressure on two Russian citizens detained over the December 19 post-election protest.

As Vadim Gusev, spokesman for the embassy, told BelaPAN, a Russian diplomat met with Artyom Breus and Ivan Gaponov on Thursday. He was given a formal document stating the Belarusian authorities' refusal to drop the criminal proceedings against the pair, who have been charged with participation in mass riots under Part Two of the Criminal Code’s Article 293 that carries a prison term of between three and eight years.

"There's an impression that the Belarusian side is trying to avoid obvious facts that testify to our compatriots' innocence," Mr. Gusev said, adding that no pictures or video footage proving their guilt had been presented.

The embassy spokesman said that the case against Mr. Breus, 27, was based on testimony by a riot police officer who claimed that the Russian man had hit a policeman's shield five times. At the same time, he noted, investigators have no video footage or photographs that would support the claim.

Meanwhile, Mr. Breus said to Russian diplomats that he had been told by investigators to make a false confession about his contacts with opposition leaders and Mr. Gaponov, whom in fact he had never met before the demonstration. "They warned that if our compatriot failed to do so, he would be moved to the KGB detention center and have a hard time in a correctional institution," Mr. Gusev said.

"The embassy objects resolutely to such methods of investigation and calls on the Belarusian prosecutor's office to give an impartial consideration to the case of our compatriots," the spokesman said.