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RFE/RL: Belarus sentences Ukrainian to 9 years in prison for alleged 'espionage'

by Martin Fornusek March 15, 2024 10:21 PM 2 min read
Barbed wire on Ukrainian- Belarusian border on February 13, 2024 in Volyn Oblast, Ukraine. (Yevhenii Vasyliev/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
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The regional court in Belarus' Homyel sentenced Ukrainian citizen Nataliia Zakharenko to nine years in prison on espionage charges, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on March 15, citing its sources and Zakharenko's relatives.

Grounds of the accusations are unclear as the trial, ongoing since Feb. 15, was held behind closed doors, the outlet said.

Under dictator Alexander Lukashenko's regime, the Belarusian state uses heavy repressions to crack down against its real or imagined opponents. Lukashenko is also a close ally of Russia and supports Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Zakharenko disappeared last July while on her way to Mazyr, Belarus, where her sister lives. The woman regularly traveled between Chernihiv and Mazyr through Poland, transporting people, animals, and things, RFE/RL said.

According to the Poland-based outlet Belsat, Zakharenko traveled to Belarus to help Ukrainians who ended up in Belarus due to the war return home. She reportedly took out around 30 people.

In addition to the prison sentence, the court reportedly confiscated her minibus. Zakharenko's Belarusian friend, Larisa Krupa, was fined 4,000 Belarusian rubles (around $1,200) for not reporting the alleged "crimes."

According to the human rights group Vyasna, at least five people have been convicted in Belarus for purpoted cooperation with Ukrainian intelligence since the start of the full-scale war.

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