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Activist's death prompt anger in Belarus

November 15, 2020

Right groups say hundreds of people have been detained in fresh rallies against Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Protesters are enraged over the recent death of 31-year-old activist Raman Bandarenka.

Police spray water at protesters in Belarus
Image: Stringer/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Security forces in Belarus detained hundreds of people during mass protests against the country's leader, Alexander Lukashenko, on Sunday.  The Viasa human rights organization said more than 900 protesters have been detained nationwide after demonstrations calling on the 66-year-old strongman to quit.

The rally was held under the slogan "I'm going out" the last-known written words of anti-government protester Raman Bandarenka who died last week. Protesters also chanted "I'm going out" at the Sunday rally.

Many of them carried placards to commemorate fellow activists who died in police custody.

Protesters lay flowers in memory of anti-government protester Raman Bandarenka
Protesters lay flowers in memory of anti-government protester Raman BandarenkaImage: STRINGER/AFP

The 31-year-old Bandarenka passed away at a Minsk hospital on Thursday after several hours of surgery for serious injuries. Anti-government protesters say he was beaten savagely by the police.

The interior ministry has denied responsibility for Raman Bandarenka's death, saying he was killed in a scuffle with civilians.

The European Union has called Bandarenka's death "an outrageous and shameful result of the actions by the Belarusian authorities." The bloc sanctioned the country's leadership last week.

Reuters reported, citing witnesses, that security forces in riot gear and shields on Sunday flooded the square where he was arrested. They pulled down opposition flags, kicked over memorial lamps and dragged people from the crowds and frog-marched them to vans, the report said.

Opposition wants Lukashenko to go

Opposition supporters have taken to the streets every weekend since a contested August 9 presidential election that the government say gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office.

His main election challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (below), says that poll was rigged. She later fled to Lithuania under pressure from officials after the nationwide ballot.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania after the August 9 election
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania after the August 9 electionImage: Gints Ivuskans/AFP/Getty Images

More than 17,000 people have been detained since the vote — thousands of them brutally beaten, according to human rights groups in Belarus.

Lukashenko has ruled over the country with an iron fist during his 26 years in power, suppressing opposition parties and independent media. He is refusing to negotiate with Tsikhanouskaya and alleges the protests have been incited by Western countries.

jf/dj (AP, dpa, Reuters)