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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Opposition Leader Charged

MINSK -- Authorities have detained a man who allegedly tried to smuggle $200,000 from neighboring Lithuania into Belarus for an opposition lawmaker who has campaigned for President Alexander Lukashenko's ouster, state-run television reported Monday.

The report cited no sources and did not identify the suspected smuggler, but said the money was intended to help former lawmaker Sergei Skrebets fund opposition groups who are under increasing pressure from Lukashenko's government.

Skrebets said the accusations were a provocation, claiming security officials coerced two former business partners into saying they had smuggled the money at Skrebets' request.

He said Alexei Drobov and Konstantin Kovalyov were detained Thursday and kept in hotel room in Minsk for two days until both testified that Skrebets had requested they deliver him a large sum of money. Drobov had been beaten and threatened with death if he refused to confess, Skrebets said, while Kovalyov had been drugged.

Prosecutors refused comment.

Vasily Dementei, first deputy head of Belarus' main security agency, told Interfax that investigators have "sufficient evidence" and will show more people were involved in the case.

"This money was intended for the radical opposition," he was quoted as saying by Interfax.

The incident came weeks after opposition parties, emboldened by recent popular uprisings in other Soviet republics, staged a sizable rally in the Belarussian capital.

Skrebets said the smuggling allegations were another attempt to quash Belarus' opposition.

"Law enforcement bodies must deal with it -- they must find out where that $200,000 came from and what I have to do with it," he said.

Belarus has been branded Europe's last dictatorship and Lukashenko has become a pariah in the West because of his stifling of dissent and the prosecution of independent media and opposition parties.