US News Minsk promises Russia a meeting with suspected mercenaries
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BELARUS-RUSSIA: Minsk promises Russia a meeting with suspected mercenaries
Minsk Reuters) - Belarus on Friday pledged to hold a meeting between Moscow diplomats and a group of Russian nationals arrested this week in the former Soviet republic and presented as mercenaries, Tass news agency reports.
The agency quotes the Russian ambassador stationed in Minsk.
Moscow is demanding an explanation for the arrest of the thirty or so Russian nationals whom Minsk suspects of being mercenaries fomenting "acts of terrorism" in the run-up to the presidential election on 9 August.
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The suspects were arrested overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday near Minsk; state media reported that they worked for the Wagner Company, one of Russia's best-known private security groups.
An investigation was opened Thursday for "preparation of terrorist acts" and Minsk specifies that some of these men have already confessed to having tried to overthrow the Belarusian power.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that the men had nothing to do with Belarusian policy and that they were in transit to a third country when they were arrested.
"The baseless arrest of 33 Russian citizens is not at all in accordance with our relations between allied countries," he added. "That is why we hope that our Belarusian allies will provide clarification as soon as possible and that our citizens will be released."
(Andrei Ostroukh with Andrei Makhovsky in Minsk; French version Myriam Rivet and Henri-Pierre André)
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