MINSK (Sputnik) - Russian citizen Artem Vazhenkov, who is an employee of political organization Open Russia founded by exiled tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, may face up to 15 years in prison in Belarus in a criminal case of mass riots, his lawyer Anton Gashinsky told Sputnik.
Earlier, Belarusian state-run agency Belta published a video with people detained in Belarus, who were called "provocateurs" of the riots in Minsk, two of them saying they were from Russia. Open Russia said that it had identified them as its employees Artem Vazhenkov and Igor Rogov. The Investigative Committee of Belarus reported that Vazhenkov and Rogov were in custody in the case of mass riots and are in the status of suspects. Rogov was later released.
"Vazhenkov is being held as a suspect in the mass riots case. The penalty under this article provides for from eight to 15 years in prison," Gashinsky said.
According to the lawyer, Vazhenkov is in a temporary detention facility. A lawyer must be allowed to see him, but this will not happen until Thursday. Gashinsky said that he planned to meet with the investigator, who would most likely require a non-disclosure agreement from the defense lawyer.
"He will not go to Russia yet, he will go to a pre-trial detention facility, most likely," Gashinsky said.
He added that Russian diplomats were dealing with the issue of Vazhenkov's return to his homeland.
The lawyer believes that the interest to Vazhenkov on the part of law enforcement officers is due to the fact that he represents Open Russia. At the same time, Vazhenkov's colleague Igor Rogov was released and handed over to diplomats.
"There is no difference between them, they [Russian diplomats] just managed to snatch one, but not the other," Gashinsky said.