People of Belarus mourned the death of a 31-year-old anti-government protester who died in hospital following what demonstrators say was a severe beating by security forces.
Witnesses say Roman Bondarenko was detained on Wednesday evening after scuffling with people in plain-clothes who had come to a playground to remove red-and-white ribbons that represent the protest movement against veteran President Alexander Lukashenko.
Protesters carrying flowers and candles formed human chains of solidarity on Friday to honour Bondarenko.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs denied responsibility for Bondarenko’s death, saying he was killed due to a scuffle with civilians.
The state’s Investigative Committee alleged Bondarenko was drunk, which was disputed in local media, citing the official medical report into his death. An inquiry has been launched. Bondarenko’s death on Thursday is the latest flashpoint in months of mass protests against Lukashenko following a disputed presidential election in August.
The European Union in a statement from its foreign policy department called Bondarenko’s death “an outrageous and shameful result of the actions by the Belarusian authorities” who had “directly and violently carried out repression of their own population”.
The bloc, which has blacklisted some Belarusian officials, threatened further sanctions.
Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for a “thorough, transparent and independent investigation”.