MINSK, Belarus — Belarusian authorities on Thursday accused more than 30 detained Russians of plotting terror attacks during a presidential campaign, allegations that Russian officials angrily rejected.
The accusations mark a spike in tensions between Russia and Belarus, which are neighbors and traditionally allies. Independent observers and opposition supporters in Belarus have dismissed the purported terror plot as a campaign stunt by President Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader who is seeking a sixth term in next month’s election.
The Belarusian State Security Committee, still known by its Soviet-era name KGB, said it detained 32 people from private Russian military firm Wagner early Wednesday at a sanitarium outside the capital, Minsk. Another person was detained in the country’s south.
Security Council Secretary Andrei Ravkov said Thursday that the Russians are facing a criminal investigation on charges of plotting terror attacks in Belarus. He claimed that Belarusian authorities were searching for another 200 Russian “militants” believed to be in the ex-Soviet nation.
The Kremlin responded by urging Belarus to explain its action and to fully respect the detainees’ rights.