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Belarus opposition leader’s wife asks Russia’s first ladies for help

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Summary of story from RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, October 3, 2011

The wife of jailed Belarusian opposition leader Andrey Sannikau has asked the wives of Russia’s president and prime minister to help secure her husband’s release.

Iryna Khalip made the appeal via a letter published in the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. She is one of the paper’s Minsk-based correspondents.

Her husband Sannikau was jailed for five years in May over the protests in Minsk against the presidential election which gave the current Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka another term in office (see WVoN coverage).

Khalip said in her letter that the Belarusian authorities and KGB are doing everything “to make me a widow, and our four-year-old son Daniil an orphan.”

Sannikau has been moved several times in recent weeks and Khalip has been constantly misinformed of his whereabouts.

Three days ago officers at the detention center in Mahileu told Sannikau’s lawyer that he was no longer there, but refused to say where he had been taken.

Khalip said that she then decided to appeal to the wives of Russia’s leaders in the hope that they would persuade their husbands to help hers and other political prisoners in Belarus.

“At the end of the day” she said, “they are wives, they are mothers, and so am I. Maybe they will understand me better.”

Khalip said that she plans to hand similar letters addressed to the wives of European and US leaders to officials at their embassies in Minsk.

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