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Russian ambassador to discuss detainees' release with Belarus

MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday its ambassador to Minsk would discuss the release of Russian nationals detained for taking part in a protest against the results of Belarus' recent presidential election.

Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov would hold talks with representatives of the Belarusian presidential administration.

When asked what steps Russia was taking to secure the release of Russian journalists detained in Minsk, Kamynin said it would be wrong to divide the detainees into journalists and non-journalists.

"Ensuring the legitimate rights and interests of all Russian citizens regardless of their professional status is a matter of principle to us," he said. "The Russian side is taking all measures to provide legal assistance to the detained Russians."

Belarusian Prosecutor General Petr Miklashevich said earlier that 21 foreign nationals had been detained in Minsk between March 19 and 25 for participating in unauthorized rallies, including seven Ukrainians, six Poles, four Russians, two Georgians, one Lithuanian, and one Canadian.

On Monday, a court in the Belarusian capital sentenced two Russians to 15 days in custody for taking part in a protest in Minsk.

The Russians were detained under the country's Administrative Code on March 24. Five other Russians, including a prominent television journalist, could face similar action.

Russian Embassy officials in Belarus said they had visited the Russians detained by police during unauthorized rallies in the country's capital.

The embassy sent a note to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, and Russian diplomats have been in contact with the republic's law-enforcement agencies.

On March 25, crowds protesting the re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington, clashed with riot police on Minsk's central square. Police detained 300 opposition supporters.

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