Vitali Shkliarov: US citizen detained in Belarus is released, Pompeo says

Shkliarov, who is a dual citizen, had traveled to Belarus this summer to visit his family and friends. He was charged with working with an opposition blogger and helping him organize illegal rallies, but his wife has said he did not work for that campaign. Before being detained, he had been critical of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Shkliarov arrived back in Washington, DC, Tuesday evening, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced. CNN has reached out to Shkliarov’s family for comment.

Shkliarov is a political consultant who worked on the political campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama. His wife, Heather Shkliarov, is a US diplomat who told reporters last month that his health was in “immediate danger” when he started to develop symptoms of Covid-19 while he was in jail.

Shkliarov was “extremely alert” and appeared to be in good health after his release despite the harsh conditions that he faced in prison, where he was subjected to interrogation and some physical punishment, said a source familiar with the matter. Shkliarov is now in a US hospital undergoing further medical checks as a precaution, the source added.

“After three months of wrongful detention and house arrest, Mr. Shkliarov has been reunited with his family and has arrived in the United States,” Pompeo said in a statement to CNN.

“As the President and I have made clear, we will not tolerate foreign governments wrongfully detaining US citizens,” Pompeo said.

The top US diplomat spoke with Lukashenko on Saturday to call for Shkliarov’s “full release and immediate departure from Belarus,” a State Department spokesperson said Saturday. This was the primary purpose of that call, the source said.

Roger Carstens, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, went to Belarus this week to bring Shkliarov back to the US. First they traveled across the border from Belarus to Kiev where he spent some time with his family before boarding the medical plane and flying to the US, explained the source familiar.

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