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Belarus threatens to execute activists for anti-war railway sabotage

file photo: belarussian border guards cross the railways near the belarus poland border on the outskirts of the western city of brest
FILE PHOTO: Belarussian border guards cross the railways near the Belarus-Poland border on the outskirts of the western city of Brest, some 360 km (223 miles) southeast of Minsk, June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

Three Belarusian activists could be executed after being charged with conducting railway sabotage in Belarus to hinder the movement of Russian troops in the early phases of their invasion of Ukraine, Belarusian investigators said on Wednesday.

The men were accused of terrorism after being arrested on March 1 for setting fire to relay boxes on the railway network at night, the Belarusian Investigative Committee said.

“…The men could face a maximum penalty as serious as the death penalty,” it said in a statement on its website to announce the completion of its investigation.

Ex-Soviet Belarus carries out executions with a single shot to the back of the head. Relatives are not informed once the penalty has been carried out and the body is not returned.

Moscow used Belarus, a close Kremlin ally, as a staging ground for its assault on Kyiv. Minsk denies involvement in the conflict, but acknowledges its territory was used.

Dozens of acts of sabotage were carried out on the railway system from February to April to slow down the deployment of Russian troops and hardware in the war in Ukraine, the Belarusian authorities and opposition estimate.

The impact of the sabotage on Russian troop movements was unclear.

The men were instructed by a Belarusian opposition group that authorities in Minsk have branded extremist, the investigators said.

The investigation has been passed to the state prosecutors office and will then be sent to the court for the trial, the Investigative Committee said. It was unclear when that would be.

Last month Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko signed his approval of a move to expand the use of the death penalty in Belarus to punish attempted acts of terrorism as well.

Belarus already had the death penalty for acts of terrorism that cause loss of life, for brutal murders and multiple murders.

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