Belarus riot police detained hundreds protesting the death of a Minsk man taken into custody earlier in the week.
The Sunday protests followed a pattern that’s become familiar since the Aug. 9 presidential vote that President Alexander Lukashenko claims as a landslide win and opposition groups say was rigged. After clashes with demonstrators around the capital through the afternoon, police encircled a group gathered at a makeshift memorial to 31-year-old Raman Bandarenka in a small downtown playground.
Video footage posted on the news website Tut.by showed police with shields and truncheons moving in on the chanting demonstrators and loading them into vans. Almost 500 people have been detained in the protests on Sunday in Minsk and other cities in the former Soviet republic, according to Minsk-based human rights center Viasna, which is not officially registered by the country’s authorities..
The political crisis is the worst of Lukashenko’s 26 years in power and has forced him closer to Russia, which has provided financial support as the protests and coronavirus pandemic have slowed the economy. The U.S. and the European Union have not recognized the election’s result.
Bandarenka was taken away by police on Wednesday following a clash between locals hanging ribbons on a fence in support of the opposition, and a group tearing them down, according to Tut.by, citing unidentified eye witnesses. An hour and a half later he was hospitalized, and he died Thursday evening, according to the site.
The European Union’s diplomatic service called the death “outrageous” and threatened to add sanctions against Belarus.
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