US Demands Immediate Release of Detained Belarusian Activists It Helped Fund

from Sputnik International

The US Embassy in Belarus is demanding that Belarusian authorities release all protesters detained at Saturday’s unauthorized rally in Minsk. The request comes just days following revelations that US aid agencies have increased their spending on ‘democracy promotion’ initiatives in Belarus to the tune of several million dollars.

On Saturday, Belarusian police detained several hundred people after opposition activists attempted to carry out an unauthorized rally in the center of the Belarusian capital of Minsk. According to human rights organizations, some 700 people were detained; about 100 of them were still in custody as of Sunday morning. Some of the protesters who have been released now face administrative charges for participation in an unauthorized mass event, while others were let go without being charged.

In a statement late on Saturday, the US Embassy marked its “deep concern” with the Belarusian government’s refusal “to allow peaceful demonstrations in Minsk for the annual ‘Freedom Day’ commemoration.”…

The US request comes just days after revelations in Russian-language media that US agencies and NGOs, including USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, have raised the amounts earmarked for media, human rights and civil society initiatives in Belarus. For example, USAID committed $9 million in support for ‘democracy development’ in 2017, compared with $8.3 million in 2016 and $7 million in 2015. The State Department and other government and private organizations have committed millions of dollars more on other initiatives, including the training of independent journalists…

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