Belarus pardons Ukrainian journalist jailed for 'spying'

Friday October 4 2019


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Kiev. A Ukrainian journalist who was jailed in Belarus for eight years on spying charges has been freed after less than two years in detention, Kiev said on Friday.

The Belarussian KGB, which has kept its name from the Soviet era, accused Pavlo Sharoiko of "setting up a spy ring" of Belarussian citizens who were paid to transmit military and political information.

"Journalist Pavlo Sharoiko, who was jailed in Belarus for eight years, has been pardoned and he is already at home in Ukraine," Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

Sharoiko, who worked as a correspondent in Minsk for Radio Ukraine International from 2011, was sentenced in Belarus in February 2018.

Kiev rejected the accusations. 

Sharoiko was a spokesperson for a Ukrainian intelligence service but left in 2009 to resume his work as a journalist, Kiev's defence ministry said. 


Ukraine's commissioner for human rights, Lyudmyla Denisova said Sharoiko was freed thanks to talks between Zelensky and Belarus's strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko. 

Lukashenko was visiting Ukraine on Friday.

On Thursday, Ukraine for its part freed a Belarussian citizen, who was also arrested on suspicion of espionage in 2017.

Belarus is a former Soviet republic led by Lukashenko since 1994, and is an ally of Russia. 

Minsk has distanced itself from Russia since the start of a Moscow-backed insurgency in April 2014, which followed Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.