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Austrian-owned mobile operator helped block internet in Belarus, report

An Austrian-owned mobile operator has had a hand in restricting internet access in Belarus amid protests against that country’s longtime strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, Polish Radio has said, citing media reports. 

Alexander Lukashenko, seen here during a meeting, in Yerevan, Armenia on October 1, 2019. Photo by Asatur Yesayants / Shutterstock.com

The operator, A1 Belarus, agreed to disable internet access for users during anti-government demonstrations and fed user data to the Lukashenko regime, Polish Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper cited Austrian media as reporting.

That came despite the Austrian government in early August condemning any attempts to limit internet access for citizens by authorities in Belarus, the Polish daily said.

The government in Vienna said in a statement to the Austrian media at the time that it was unacceptable to force telecommunications operators to do so, according to Gazeta Wyborcza.

The statement was issued after Lukashenko’s government disrupted internet connectivity in Belarus in an attempt to stifle growing protests after that country’s August 9 presidential election, according to the report.

The Austrian government holds 28% of telecommunications company A1 Telekom, the owner of A1 Belarus, the Polish paper said.

A1 Belarus has almost five million customers in a country with a total population of less than 10 million. The operator told Austrian journalists it was acting in accordance with Belarusian law, Gazeta Wyborcza reported.