9 Russians detained in Belarus after spraying graffiti

Police in the Belarusian capital Minsk have detained nine Russians for allegedly spraying &to=http://english.pravda.ru/fun/2002/03/14/26998.html' target=_blank>graffiti on a downtown movie theater, officials said Monday.

Police spokesman Oleg Slepchenko said that the Russians were taken into custody on Saturday and may face charges of hooliganism, which is punishable with three months up to a maximum sentence of six years. "Some of the slogans contained swear words," said the official.

According to the police, the detained Russians do not belong to any political organizations but are into punk music.

A member of a Belarusian anarchist group, Anastasiya Hekazakova, told The Associated Press that some of the graffiti targeted the former Soviet republic's authoritarian President &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/20/92/370/15790_Lukashenko.html' target=_blank>Alexander Lukashenko.

"It was an informal protest against the arbitrary rule in Belarus," she said.

Among those detained are members of a Russian anti-fascist movement and a Russian punk group that gave a concert in Minsk.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Minsk, Alexander Frolov, said that consular officials had contacted Belarusian authorities in connection with the arrests.