With applause and flowers, hundreds attend the funeral of Belarusian protester By Reuters


© Reuters. A memorial service for anti-government protester Roman Bondarenko in Minsk


By Matthias Williams (NYSE 🙂

Kiev (Reuters) – Thousands of people silently raised their arms in the air, held up flowers and broke into chanting at the funeral of a Belarusian protester outside a church in Minsk on Friday.

The death of 31-year-old Roman Bondarenko has become the latest focus of months of mass protests against President Alexander Lukashenko. He died in hospital last week after protesters said the security forces beat violently.

The Home Office declined responsibility. The death was condemned by the European Union, which on Thursday announced new sanctions against Minsk in response to state repression against protesters following a controversial election in August. [nL8N2I54IN]

His opponents accuse Lukashenko of manipulating the election in order to extend his 26-year takeover. He denied electoral fraud and, with the support of Russia, refused to resign.

The crowd in front of the church, most of them with masks, sang “I’m going out”, Bondarenko’s last known written words and “Long live Belarus”.

Cars roared in the street. Thousands applauded as the coffin was carried out of the church.

Authorities this week arrested a paramedic who leaked a medical report of Bondarenko’s death to the media. The medical report showed that Bondarenko’s bloodstream did not contain alcohol, casting doubt on the government’s claim that Bondarenko was drunk and died in an argument with civilians.

The attorney general’s office opened a criminal investigation into the doctor in an attempt to divulge medical secrets, divulge false information, and fuel tension in society. A journalist who published the report was also arrested.

Almost 50 Belarusian officials have already imposed travel bans and frozen assets. The new sanctions are expected to affect more senior officials as well as institutions that finance Lukashenko and his government.

United Nations human rights experts said Thursday they were deeply concerned about increased reports of mass detention, intimidation and torture. They called on the Belarusian authorities to investigate the excessive use of force and illegal retaliation during peaceful protests.

Tens of thousands of people have protested regularly for weeks since the elections. Some workers in large state-owned companies went on strike. This week, potash producer Belaruskali said 49 workers had been fired for participating in the strike.

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