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US Spy Ring In Belarus

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BELARUS claims to have uncovered a spy ring working for the US, deepening a diplomatic and human rights row between the countries.

Hundreds of demonstrators from the former Soviet state's liberal and nationalist opposition, meanwhile, have staged an unauthorised rally in the centre of Minsk and clashed with police.

The US ambassador this month left Belarus, whose President, Alexander Lukashenko, is accused by the West of violating basic rights. The US embassy has since stopped issuing visas and complied with a request to cut diplomatic staff in Minsk.

On Tuesday, Belarus's intelligence service, still known by its Soviet-era initials KGB, said a spy ring of Belarusian citizens had been uncovered in the country of 10 million.

"The information about this group being exposed is completely true," a KGB official said. "A group conducting espionage for the United States has been uncovered."

The KGB chairman, Yuri Zhadobin, later told Belarusian media that no arrests had been made in what he said was a "preventive" operation. New checks would determine if laws had been broken.

State television reported at the weekend that a spying network of 10 Belarusian nationals had been exposed, but gave no details of charges against them.

"We have no spies working on the territory of Belarus. These are people working for the diplomatic security service," the US charge d'affaires, Jonathan Moore, told local media.

The report showed people described as embassy employees working as informers for the FBI. Some told an interviewer they were gathering information to prevent terrorism.

In the evening, opposition activists gathered in a Minsk square to mark the 90th anniversary of the creation of the Belarusian People's Republic, crushed within months by Bolshevik forces. Riot police surrounded the protesters and broke them up into smaller groups. Clashes broke out and dozens were seen being led away to a police bus.


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