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Belarus Closes Office of Russia Television

MINSK -- Authorities in Belarus have shut the office of the Russian state television channel Rossia after accusing it of exaggerating the size of a rally denouncing President Alexander Lukashenko.

"In connection with an improper report on opposition activity, it has been decided to halt the activity in Belarus of the office of VGTRK," Belarussian Foreign Ministry official Ruslan Yesin told reporters Saturday. "At the moment, its office in Belarus cannot work legally."

He repeated official calls for an apology, saying the matter would then be considered closed.

The Rossia report said several thousand demonstrators took part in Wednesday's protest to mark Lukashenko's 10th anniversary in office.

Belarus' Interior Ministry said 193 people had attended, including 44 detained by police before the protest got under way. A Reuters reporter estimated that 4,000 people took part.

Another Russian channel, NTV, was shut for a time last year after being accused of "slandering the government" in a report on the funeral of a writer opposed to Lukashenko.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said he hoped Rossia's office would soon reopen.

"A report on one or another event in Belarus by Rossia television cannot form serious grounds for actions of this nature," Itar-Tass quoted him as saying in Moscow.

(The Moscow Times 26.vii.04)

 
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