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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wife Pleads For Belarus ORT Chief

MINSK, Belarus -- The wife of a jailed television correspondent said she has written to the daughter of President Boris Yeltsin, asking her help in getting the journalist released.


Pavel Sheremet's wife, Natalya, said Saturday she sent the appeal to Tatyana Dyachenko -- now Yeltsin's aide as well as his daughter -- via the diplomatic pouch.


Her husband, a Belarussian citizen and prominent correspondent for Russia's ORT television, was arrested in Minsk on July 26, along with a driver and cameraman.


The three have been accused of violating the country's border while filming a report on Belarus' poorly guarded frontiers.


Sheremet's wife, reached by telephone, declined to talk about the letter's contents. But the text was reported by Russia's NTV television and Interfax.


"If Russia proves unable today to protect its journalists drawn into the Belarussian justice machine, it will be difficult to foresee what will happen in Russia tomorrow," she was quoted as saying in the letter.


The journalist's mother, Lyudmila Sheremet, already has written appeals to the presidents of Russia, Lithuania and the United States and to international human rights bodies.


The case has become a cause c?l?bre among journalists and opponents of Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko.


In Moscow on Saturday, about a dozen journalists picketed the Belarussian Embassy to protest the jailings. One held a sign saying "Belarus is a prison for journalists."


Separately, Lukashenko, not likely to be confused with Steven Spielberg anytime soon, wants to be a movie producer.


Lukashenko visited Belarus' state-run film studio Friday and made directors an offer they could hardly refuse: Make a movie within a year and he'd hand over $1 million.


That might be mere catering money in Hollywood, but Minsk, as Lukashenko well knows, is far from Hollywood.


"As of today let's agree that you'll have three months to write a script, nine months for shooting and within a year we'll be able to make an excellent film," he told an audience at Belarusfilm, the Soviet-style studio. "When people watch this film they will say, 'Yes, the cinematographic school in Belarus exists, it has never been destroyed, it is alive.' It's the most important thing for me to show people that as a state leader, I don't destroy, I create, and I can even create something in this sphere."