The Belarusian KGB security service said Monday a detained Ukrainian radio journalist spied on Belarus for Kiev and built a ‘spy ring’ consisting of Belarusian nationals.
Pavlo Sharoyko, who works as Minsk correspondent for UA:Ukrainian Radio, was detained in Belarus on October 25 but his arrest was only made public last week.
He faces between 7 and 15 years in a Belarusian jail on espionage charges, if convicted.
‘Strong evidence of his illegal activity, hurting Belarus, has been found,’ a spokesman for the Belarusian KGB, the authoritarian country's security service that has retained its Soviet-era name, said on Monday.
The KGB said Sharoyko's work as a radio correspondent was a ‘cover’ and that he was actually working for the Ukrainian defence ministry's intelligence service.
Authorities also accused Sharoyko of ‘building a spy ring of Belarusian citizens’ who it said were paid to pass on military and political intelligence.
The intelligence unit of Ukraine's Ministry of Defence on Monday said the Belarusian accusations ‘do not correspond to reality.’
Sharoyko had previously worked as the unit's chief press secretary but quit this job due to health reasons in 2009 after which he returned to journalism, the intelligence unit added.
The journalist was detained on October 25 after a KGB raid but his arrest was only announced last Friday by the head of Ukraine's public broadcasting corporation, Zurab Alasania, on social media.
Alasania wrote on Facebook that ‘according to our unofficial information from Belarus, (Sharoyko) is facing a charge of 'spying ' that is standard for foreign correspondents.’
UA:Ukrainian Radio said last week that 46 year-old Sharoyko, who has worked in Minsk since 2011, had been detained, saying it had been unable to contact him for around two weeks.
Belarus, which has been led by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, is a close ally of its ex-Soviet master Russia.
Moscow's relations with Kiev are in tatters over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support of a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.
The hostilities have led to an unprecedented number of espionage and treason cases involving Ukrainians in Russia.
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