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Belarusian Publisher, Associate Arrested After Opening New Bookstore.

The Knihauka bookstore in Minsk

The Knihauka bookstore in Minsk

MINSK -- Police in Minsk have detained the director of a publishing house, Andrey Yanushkevich, and his associate, Nasta Karnatskaya, after they opened a general bookstore in the Belarusian capital.

Yanushkevich and Karnatskaya were detained on May 16 soon after a visit from well-known pro-government propagandist journalists Ryhor Azaronak and Lyudmila Hladkaya.

Azaronak and Hladkaya started berating the bookstore staff for selling books in Belarusian that they said were inappropriate.

The two questioned why the store was selling a book about the Radziwill family, who influenced historic developments in what is today Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus.

They also accused the bookstore owners of selling a book with a photo of a gathering that was "reminiscent of a Nazi parade." The picture in the history book was actually of Lithuanian armed forces in Vilnius in 1939.

Hours after the visit of the two journalists, police arrived at the bookstore and conducted a search, after which, Yanushkevich and Karnatskaya were detained.

Yanushkevich's relatives say they do not know the grounds on which the two were detained. It also remains unclear whether Yanushkevich and Karnatskaya are facing any charges.

Yanushkevich Publishing House issues books on a variety of subjects, mainly in Belarusian.

In January 2021, the State Control Committee confiscated the publishing house's equipment and suspended its bank account for several months. Earlier this year, city authorities ordered it to vacate its offices in Minsk.

In recent months, Belarusian authorities have suspended the activities of several independent publishing houses -- Limaryus, Knihazbor, Haliyafy, and Medysont -- for the "violation of regulations on registration at the Information Ministry."

A crackdown on independent media and publishing houses has intensified in the country since mass anti-government protests followed an August 2020 presidential election that proclaimed authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the winner, while the opposition and the West say the poll was rigged.

With reporting by Nasha Niva

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