Russia’s top human rights official has warned authorities in Belarus against handing over to Azerbaijan a Russian-Israeli blogger who was arrested in Minsk in December because of his past trips to Nagorno-Karabakh.
The state ombudsperson, Tatyana Moskalkova, issued a statement late on Tuesday warning that Alexander Lapshin’s extradition is “inadmissible.”
Moskalkova argued that Russia’s constitution forbids the extradition of Russian citizens to foreign countries. Belarus must respect this constitutional provision because it is part of a “union state” with Russia, she said.
“I have received support for my position from Russia’s Foreign Ministry and other relevant agencies,” stressed the official.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed concern last month over the fate of Lapshin, who visited Karabakh in 2011 and 2012 and gave detailed accounts of the trips on his Russian-language blog.
Israel asked Belarus not to send the 40-year-old to Baku shortly he was detained on December 14 on an arrest warrant issued by the Azerbaijani authorities. The latter say that he had illegally entered “occupied territories of Azerbaijan.”
A court in Minsk upheld last week Belarusian prosecutors’ decision to allow his extradition to Azerbaijan. According to the Israeli consul general in Belarus, Yulia Rachinski-Spivakov, Lapshin has appealed against that ruling.
“Lapshin will stay in Belarus until the court makes a [final] decision on the case,” Rachinski-Spivakov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday. She said that Israeli diplomats in Minsk continue to visit him in custody.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian condemned Lapshin’s prosecution as a “disgrace” on Tuesday.
The arrest came two weeks after Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko visited Baku and received Azerbaijan’s highest state award from President Ilham Aliyev.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) demanded the blogger’s “unconditional” release in a January 13 statement.