Belarus strips Russian reporters of accreditation amid virus

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — The Foreign Ministry of Belarus has stripped two Russian journalists of accreditation after reports about the growing coronavirus outbreak in the country, the ministry’s spokesman said Wednesday.

Reporter Alexei Kruchinin and cameraman Sergei Panasyuk work for Russia’s state-run Channel One. The ministry didn’t name the reason for the decision. Channel One called it “groundless.”

Earlier this week Channel One aired several critical reports about the situation with the virus in Belarus. The latest report that ran on Wednesday featured residents of Stolbtsy, a town 80 kilometers south of Minsk, questioning the official virus tally and claiming that people dying of COVID-19 are registered with other causes of death.

In response to Channel One reports, Belarusian television aired a 18-minute segment accusing Russian journalists of spreading false information about the outbreak in the country.

As of Wendesday, Belarus has reported 19,255 confirmed coronavirus cases and 112 deaths. President Alexander Lukashenko repeatedly dismissed concerns around the pandemic as “mass psychosis” and refused to impose a lockdown.

Belarus remains one of the few countries that hadn’t closed its borders, hadn’t suspended business operations and continues to throw big public events despite numerous warnings from the World Health Organization.

On Saturday, Minsk will host a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the allied victory over the Nazi Germany.

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