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Reporter sentenced for 'radioactive' milk story

A Belarus court has ruled against AP journalist who reported on milk farms near Chernobyl. In the story, the correspondent claimed that the milk contained massive amounts of radioactive material.

The Minsk court ordered the reporter, Yuras Karmanau, to pay legal fees and write a retraction, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Friday.

In the original Associated Press article from April, Karmanau says he traveled to the edge of Belarus' Chernobyl exclusion zone and talked to farmers who herd milk cows in the area. He claims that AP employees passed a milk sample to a government-run lab, and that the results revealed radioactive isotope strontium-90, appearing in concentration 10 times higher than the allowed level.

The author also featured a comment from Milkavita, the company that buys milk from the farms, with the firm dismissing the findings as "impossible" and a likely "mix-up."

The result were also disputed after the story was published, both by the cited lab and a special Belarus government department for dealing with the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The lab said that the there was not enough milk in the 1100-gram sample and that three liters of milk were necessary for a proper strontium-90 test, according to Belaurs news outlet Naviny.

Milkavita then sued Karmanau for "intentionally false reporting" and damaging their reputation.

AP 'looks forward' to appeal 

Commenting on the Friday verdict, AP's vice president Ian Phillips said that the news agency "unreservedly" stands behind their employee.

"Mr. Karmanau's reporting is a fair and accurate account of the lingering effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on Belarus 30 years after the accident," he said. "The court's refusal to consider key evidence in support of Mr. Karmanau raises serious concerns, and AP looks forward to vindication on appeal."

Milkavita's dairy products are mostly sold in Russia.

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