Russia refuses to discuss Belarus opposition hunger strike at UN

(RIA Novosti) - Russia refused to discuss the issue of a jailed Belarusian opposition leader who went on a hunger strike, when the United States raised the subject at UN Security Council consultations, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, said the issue was not on the agenda of the talks, which were expected to focus on Iran's nuclear program, and left the room in protest, reports Trend.

At the meeting of the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany at the UN headquarters in New York, the U.S. ambassador to the UN proposed discussing Alexander Kozulin, leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, who was arrested during a protest on March 25 against the presidential election results.

The March 19 elections saw authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko re-elected to a third term.

Kozulin, 50, was convicted on charges of hooliganism, violating public order and refusing to obey law enforcement officers, and sent to a penal colony in the Vitebsk Region in the north of the republic. In mid-October he went on a hunger strike.

The politician said his protest was aimed at attracting international attention to human rights violations in the ex-Soviet republic. During his 53-day hunger strike, which ended Tuesday, he lost over 26 kg (57 lbs).

Lukashenko was re-elected with a massive 83% of the vote. Although he has widespread support in his homeland for maintaining relative stability in comparison with some other former Soviet republics, his human rights record has been fiercely criticized by international organizations.

However Russia, which is forming a Union State with Belarus, has urged other countries not to interfere with Belarus' internal affairs.

The March elections were denounced by the opposition and international monitors as fraudulent, and opposition activists staged a five-day sit-in in Minsk's central square.

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