Erroneous Belarussian media reports cause uproar

  • 2005-04-20
  • By TBT staff
VILNIUS - The Foreign Ministry has blasted the Belarusian media for publicizing a "provocation," following reports that the country's police arrested a man acting as a cash-courier between Lithuania and the democratic opposition.

On April 17, Belarusian television claimed that the country's special services had detained a courier who was transporting $200,000 for former MP Sergey Skrebets, who used to be involved in the opposition activity.

The report showed a man who claimed that the money was intended for political activity and was being delivered from Vilnius to Belarus. The program's host claimed that the courier, whose face and voice were disguised, was a Lithuanian frontiersman.

The courier was recorded as saying, "The money was meant for Mr. [Sergey] Skrebets' political activity and had been received in Vilnius, and, in keeping with all precautions, was brought to Minsk from there."

The following day the Belarusian agency Belapan reported that there were two persons detained, not just one.

The Foreign Ministry called the information a provocation. It claimed that the persons detained were neither citizens of Lithuania nor in possession of Lithuanian visas, meaning that they were actually detained in Minsk and not on the train from Lithuania.

Meanwhile, Skrebets said in an interview on April 14 that two of his former business associates 's Aleksey Brobov and Konstantin Kovalyov 's were detained in Minsk.

"These facts show that all of this is a preplanned and gross provocation, both against the Belarusian opposition and against Lithuania," a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Baltic News Service.

In response to the reports, the Foreign Ministry dispatched a diplomatic note to the Belarusian authorities. Sources said the note was sent upon failure to receive a reply to an analogous verbal inquiry to Belarusian authorities.

Skrebets is a former member of the Belarusian parliament and has participated in opposition activity. He now faces criminal charges on suspicion of having illegally taken a loan of $500,000 from a Belarusian bank.

The TV announcer also said that the police were searching for Skrebets' younger brother Aleksandr Skrebets, who had a business in Belarus.