Belarus seeks death penalty for treasonous officials and soldiers

KYIV, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Belarusian lawmakers gave their initial backing on Wednesday to a proposal to introduce the death penalty for treasonous officials and soldiers, and to make discrediting the army a criminal offence punishable by up to four years in jail.

The Russian ally currently has the death penalty for crimes such as murder or for people who commit, plan or intend to commit acts of terrorism. Executions are carried out with a single shot to the back of the head.

The lower house voted in the first reading to introduce the death penalty specifically for officials or soldiers found guilty of treason.

The parliament said this was needed "in order to exert a deterrent effect on destructive elements, as well as to demonstrate a determined fight against treason."

The draft legislation still needs to be approved in a second reading in the lower house, backed by the upper house and signed into law by President Alexander Lukashenko.

The second legislative change - to introduce jail terms for those who "discredit" the Belarusian army - is similar to a new law that was passed in Russia after Moscow invaded neighbouring Ukraine this year.

Belarus has not sent its own troops into Ukraine, but it allowed Russia to use its territory as a launchpad for its invasion in February and has since let Russian warplanes and drones use its airspace for attacks on Ukraine.

"We will not tolerate those who discredit and lie about people in uniform who are now defending us and our motherland. Accountability will be harsh and inescapable," lawmaker Oleg Gaydukevich was quoted as saying by parliament.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.