Thousands attend Belarus protester’s funeral amid unrest

Ghana Ghana News

Thousands of people have attended the funeral of a man who died during recent protests against the disputed presidential election in Belarus.

Opposition supporters turned out in the capital, Minsk, on Saturday where they laid flowers, waved banners and chanted for the long-time president to resign.

Mass protests erupted after President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in the 9 August vote.

The result has been condemned with widespread allegations of vote-rigging.

The Central Election Commission says Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, won 80.1% of the vote and the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 10.12%.

But Ms Tikhanovskaya insists that where votes were properly counted, she won support ranging from 60% to 70%.

On Friday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to prepare new sanctions on Belarusian officials responsible for “falsification”. The US has also condemned the election as “not free and fair”.

And on Saturday, three Baltic states called for the vote to be re-run.

What’s the latest with the protests?

Thousands of people waved flags, lit candles and laid flowers at the scene close to the metro station where Alexander Taraikovsky died on Monday. Others held up pictures of injured protesters, while drivers joined in by honking their horns.

Many opposition supporters chanted “Leave!” – a call for President Lukashenko to resign – and some carried signs with slogans against police violence.

The circumstances of Mr Taraikovsky’s death are unclear. Officials say he died when an explosive device went off in his hand during a protest, but opposition supporters dispute this.

His partner, Elena German, told the Associated Press news agency that she believed the 34-year-old was shot by police.

On Friday, Ms German visited the mortuary where Mr Taraikovsky’s body was held.

“There is a seam in the chest area – the hole was sewn up, but there is a black bruise; it’s small but we noticed. His hands and feet are completely intact, there are not even bruises,” she said.

Mr Taraikovsky had worked hard at his automobile repair business, Ms German said, and that neither of them had shown an interest in politics until the presidential election when they decided to support Ms Tikhanovskaya.

What else is happening?

A “March for Freedom” is also planned in the centre of the city on Sunday, a week after the contested election.

It follows Ms Tikhanovskaya’s call for further peaceful rallies across the country on Friday. “Don’t stay on the sidelines,” she said.

Meanwhile, state media reported that Mr Lukashenko had discussed the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.

Mr Lukashenko had said he needed to speak to Mr Putin as the protests were not “a threat to just Belarus anymore”.

In a joint statement on Saturday, the prime ministers of three Baltic republics – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – “expressed deep concern at the violent crackdown… and the political repression of the opposition by the authorities”.


Citi News

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