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US rejects criticism of historic Ukraine nuclear deal
by Staff Writers
Kiev (AFP) Dec 05, 2014

Rights activists push Belarus KGB to reveal missing journalist's location
Minsk (AFP) Dec 05, 2014 - Rights activists on Friday urged Belarus's KGB security services to reveal the location of a well-known defence journalist who went missing more than a week ago and is suspected to have been detained.

Alexander Alesin, a journalist at the independent newspaper Belarussians and the Market who specialises in defence and the arms trade, has not come to work since November 26 and his cell phone is switched off, his colleagues said.

Journalists and activists have sounded the alarm over Alesin's disappearance, saying they fear he has been detained by security forces in the secretive ex-Soviet state which is ruled by strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

The Vyasna human rights organisation and the Belarussian journalists' association issued a joint statement saying "We call on the KGB to inform the public about the reason and place of the detention of Alexander Alesin... and also the nature of the charges against him."

The deputy head of Vyasna, Valentin Stefanovich, told AFP: "We think it's unacceptable when information about the location of a detained person, his judicial status and the article of the criminal code under which he is charged are a secret and the public has no access to them."

"The KGB is a state organ, so let them say: 'Yes, he is in the KGB prison on suspicion of such-and-such a crime.' We are waiting for this information."

The opposition news site Charter 97 suggested Thursday that Alesin could been arrested on suspicion of espionage, citing colleagues who wished to remain anonymous.

A top US official hit back on Friday against accusations the West has failed to live up to promises made exactly 20 years ago to Ukraine in exchange for it giving up nuclear weapons.

The Budapest Memorandum that came into force on December 5, 1994 led to Ukraine voluntarily giving up the huge stockpile of nuclear warheads it inherited from the Soviet Union.

In exchange, Britain, the United States and Russia agreed to respect Ukraine's borders and ensure its security -- a promise which many Ukrainians see as unkept in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for eastern separatists this year.

But on a visit to Kiev on Friday, Rose Gottemoeller, head of arms control and international security for the US government, said her country "has gone every step towards continuing to defend and develop a means of bolstering Ukraine".

Gottemoeller, who was a negotiator at the Budapest talks 20 years ago, sidestepped questions from reporters on whether Ukraine would have been spared a Russian invasion if it still had nuclear weapons.

"We regret of course that Russia has not lived up to its commitments," she said.

But she added that the failure to rid Ukraine of atomic bombs "would have contributed to a very unstable 20 years not only in Ukraine's history but also in the history of the entire world because it would have placed a barrier in the way of further nuclear disarmament elsewhere."

She also emphasised that steps to reduce nuclear stockpiles in Russia and the United States had not been affected by the crisis over Ukraine, which has plunged East-West relations to levels not seen since the Cold War.

The two countries have continued to implement a so-called New START agreement signed in 2011 under which they have to limit their number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550.

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