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Ukraine, Belarus trade accusations over officer's missing son

"Belarus behaves like a partner on words but acts differently."

Ukraine, Belarus trade accusations over officer's missing son
Pavlo Hryb

The foreign ministries of Ukraine and Belarus have traded accusations over the disappearance of Ukrainian national Pavlo Hryb who entered Belarus on 24 August and never came back.

Speaking on 5 Kanal TV late on 30 August, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal complained about Belarus not being particularly helpful.

"Belarus behaves like a partner on words but acts differently," she said. "We have raised all the consuls. They are all working and trying to sort out the situation. We do not understand where he physically is," the diplomat said.

She suggested Ukraine should review its foreign and trade policy on Belarus with regard to Ukrainians' security in Belarus.

Zerkal's interview did not go unnoticed in Minsk. On 31 August, Ukraine's minister-counsellor Valeriy Dzhyhun was summoned to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

"Unfortunately, people go missing for absolutely various reasons – on their own will, out of stupidity, and as a result of malicious actions by third parties. If parents and the country's authorities cannot keep track of a 19-year-old young man, this does not entitle anyone to blame someone else. And it is not partner-like to accuse, a day after an official request for assistance was filed, the country which was chosen either as a place for a romantic date or as a safehouse, unbeknownst to it. It is especially inappropriate to use Hryb's case as a reason to publicly threaten Belarus and its partners in the Eurasian Economic Union – Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia – with 'imposing its interests' in the economic sector," Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dzmitryy Mironchyk said.

Pavlo Hryb, the son of a Ukrainian military chaplain, went missing on 24 August when he came to Belarus's Homel to meet a Russian girl he befriended online. When his father came to Belarus looking for him, he learnt that he may have been kidnapped by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) which allegedly suspects him of terrorism.

The girl Hryb was to meet told a Ukrainian TV channel that she invited him to Belarus on the FSB instruction.