Roman Bondarenko died of a severe brain injury the night after he was beaten and detained by plain-clothes police officers.
Thousands of people across Belarus stopped for silence yesterday noon / FRI to commemorate a 31-year-old anti-government protester who died the previous night after being beaten by plain-clothes police officers.
The death of Roman Bondarenko marks yet another dark chapter in the ongoing confrontation between sectors of Belarusian society and Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s leader for 26 years and whose dubious elections overwhelmingly led to anti-government protests in August..
Mr. Bondarenko died of a serious brain injury in hospital Thursday evening, as he was transferred from a police station the night before..
Mr. Bondarenko, a painter who served in the Special Forces and recently worked as a manager of a small shop, was involved in grassroots activity in his neighborhood in northern Minsk where a local square became a popular place of protest known as « Change Square ».
Change Square and other neighborhoods displaying anti-Lukashenko national flags in white, red and white have become targets of riot police and plainclothes officers, who tear down flags and other symbols of protest.
Mr. Bondarenko was attacked by a plainclothes police officer Thursday night after he went to chase agents away from the stadium..
Several videos posted by locals show a masked man in a hoodie dealing with Mr. Bondarenko, throwing him to the ground and kicking him.
He was escorted away in an unmarked pickup truck with darkened windows that the police often used to transport detainees.
Local News Port Tut. Quoting a doctor as saying that Mr. Bondarenko had visible bruises and scrapes all over his body when he was hospitalized.. He could barely move and fell into a coma shortly thereafter.
Mr. Lukashenko called on Friday evening for a « transparent and impartial investigation, » adding, « It is bad for someone to die. ».
In a statement on Friday, Belarusian investigators sought to photograph Mr. Bondarenko’s death as a result of a drunken brawl, claiming that alcohol was found in his blood upon arrival at the hospital.
The main investigation authority in Belarus described the incident as « fighting between aggressive local residents who were hanging tapes and people who were removing them. The statement did not mention that the attackers were security men.
Thousands of people flocked to Change Square Thursday night to light candles and leave flowers where they were beaten.
Bondarenko’s neighbor, Yulia, 39, who asked that her last name be withheld for fear of reprisal, told the Telegraph that she was near him when the fight started.
Yulia said that Mr. Bondarenko was attacked when he indicated that there was no point in speaking to plainclothes officers..
She said she saw Mr. Bondarenko attacked by one of the men and taken away, but he looked good enough to be able to walk before he was taken into custody..
She said of herself and her neighbors: « We are all in shock and cannot sleep at night. ». « Anyone of us can be in his place. We feel guilty: Maybe we all had to go out that night or stay at the doors, and it wouldn’t have happened.
I remembered Mr. Bondarenko as a good man who met him this summer when the local playground was turned into a center for civic activity where Mr. Bondarenko taught drawing to children, including her daughter..
Yulia said: Bondarenko’s death is likely to spark more protests. “The more mistakes the authorities make, the more they unite us..
Belarusians across the country stopped for silence on Friday noon to commemorate Mr. Bondarenko..
The Minsk soccer players stood in the middle of the soccer field with their heads bowed. Uniformed workers in orange hats stood beside the gate of a major fertilizer plant in western Belarus in solidarity, while in Minsk, students organized silent vigils on their university campuses..
In an interview with Radio Free Europe, Bondarenko’s cousin Olga Kocherenko described Mr. Bondarenko as « a very calm person who will never get involved in any disputes » and said she hopes for justice for the 31-year-old.
The European Union said on Friday that it was ready to impose additional sanctions on Lukashenko’s regime after Mr. Bondarenko’s death. She described his death as a « shameful and disgraceful consequence of the actions of the Belarusian authorities. ».
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Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, protest, European Union
World News – African Union – Deep grief in Belarus after the death of a protester after a violent arrest
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