Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Russian president rejects accusations of inadequate stance on human rights situation in Belarus

President Dzmitry Medvedev rejected Friday accusations that Russia’s stance on the human rights situation in Belarus was not tough.

Speaking at a meeting of the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights, Mr. Medvedev said that he personally and the Russian foreign ministry had made quite tough statements on the human rights situation in the neighboring country in the past, according to the Kremlin’s press office.

The harassment of political opponents is unacceptable, said Mr. Medvedev.

"As the head of state, I repeatedly raised the subject", he said. "Of course, the foreign ministry must take an adequate stance, but it is not quite fair to say that the ministry bites only those who bite us".

Human rights defender Yury Dzhibladze had brought up the Belarus issue at the Council`s meeting, calling on Russia’s authorities to pay heed to human rights violations in partner countries. The Russian foreign ministry seems to be using "tit-for-tat" tactics, pointing to human rights abuses only in states that criticize Russia, while leaving violations in partner countries unnoticed and defending the partners within international organizations, said Mr. Dzhibladze.

Mr. Dzhibladze, in particular, mentioned the sentencing of human rights activist Ales Byalyatski, who he said had been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for his "long principled stance and activities in the field of human rights". Russia is doing nothing to secure his release, said Mr. Dzhibladze.

The activist, who was placed last year by the Belarusian authorities on a list of foreigners barred from the Belarusian territory, handed over to Mr. Medvedev a statement signed by Council members in support of Mr. Byalyatski.