MOSCOW, July 9 - RAPSI. Russia will defend its citizens imprisoned in Libya until the very last, Russian Ambassador Ivan Molotkov told journalists on Monday.

"All of them have received lengthy prison sentences," the diplomat said.

He added that they "did not deny that they worked at defense firms run by the former regime and they were tried exactly for that".

"However, we hold that the sentence is unreasonably harsh. We have filed an appeal and will wait for its review. If the situation does not change, then we will take further steps", he said.

Two Russians, 19 Ukrainians and three Belarusians were arrested in Libya last fall. They were charged with supporting Qaddafi's forces during the hostilities. In early June, the Libyan authorities sentenced a Russian accused of coordinating the group to life imprisonment. Other defendants in the case were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian foreign ministries have said they will seek to have their citizens released.

In early February 2011, mass protests demanding the resignation of Muammar Qaddafi, who was in power for over 40 years, ignited in Libya. Eventually, they escalated into an armed tug-of-war between the ruling regime's forces and the NATO-backed opposition. The opposition formed the Transitional National Council in Benghazi and called it the only legitimate authority in the country. Qaddafi was killed by the opposition troops near Sirte on October 20.