Belarus police uses tear gas, stun grenades to disperse protesters

WION Web Team
Minsk, Belarus Updated: Nov 16, 2020, 04:59 PM(IST)

Belarus police use tear gas, stun grenades against protesters Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The street rallies were re-ignited following the death of Roman Bondarenko, a 31-year old anti-government protester

Belarusian police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades to disperse the crowds demonstrating against President Alexander Lukashenko.

The street rallies were re-ignited following the death of Roman Bondarenko, a 31-year old anti-government protester. He died in hospital in Minsk on Thursday following what demonstrators said was a severe beating by security forces.

Hundreds of people have been detained after they took to the streets in mass demonstrations chanting "I'm going out", the last known written words of an anti-government protester who died last week.

Belarusian rights group Viasna said at least 328 people were detained, including journalists.

Tens of thousands have taken to the streets of cities throughout Belarus every weekend since August 9 when Lukashenko claimed a sixth presidential term in elections that his critics and Western countries said were rigged.

The EU has slapped sanctions on officials in the authoritarian country for rigging the vote and waging a brutal crackdown on post-vote demonstrations that led to mass arrests and allegations of torture and abuse at the hands of the security services.

Also read| 'You cannot say no': The reign of terror that sustains Belarus' leader

Sunday's rally comes after thousands of demonstrators turned out in Minsk Friday to mourn the death of a protester who was pronounced dead one day after police arrested him.

Roman Bondarenko, 31, died in Minsk after police arrested him following a dispute in a city square that has become a regular meeting place for the opposition.

He was arrested by police on Wednesday after an altercation between residents and masked men who removed red and white ribbons, the colours of the opposition, hung in a building courtyard in Minsk. 

Bondarenko was pronounced dead on Thursday after suffering brain damage, triggering a wave of outrage among the Belarusian opposition, who believe Lukashenko's security forces are ultimately responsible.

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

'Devastating' 

Exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya described the former soldier Bondarenko as a "man who was killed because he wanted to live in a free country". 

On Sunday she described the crackdown on protesters with "gas, grenades and firearms" as "devastating" and called for international support for the demonstrators.

"We ask our allies to stand up for the Belarusian people and human rights. We need a humanitarian corridor for the injured, support for the media, international investigation of crimes," she wrote on Twitter.

Lukashenko said Friday he had asked investigators to probe the incident "honestly and objectively". 

Political crisis

Belarus has been mired in a political crisis for months. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets every week since an election in August that they say was rigged, something Lukasheko denies. They want the veteran leader, in power for 26 years, to resign.

Lukashenko, who has the firm backing of longstanding ally Russian President Vladimir Putin, has refused to stand down and instead suggests reforms to the constitution to placate the opposition.

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