Thousands gather in Minsk in memory of dead demonstrator

Thousands of protesters gather around the metro station where Alexander Taraikovsky was killed on Monday during the first phase of protests following Belarussian election results on the 9th of August.

Protesters have laid flowers on the spot where the 34-year old died. Government officials claim Taraikovsky died while handling an explosive device during the protests while the opposition claims he was a casualty of the violent crackdown that security forces have enacted.

Thousands of people reportedly chanted “Leave!” while holding signs attacking the government for their brutal use of violence and torture against detained demonstrators. Almost 7000 people have been arrested and many have been injured, with two confirmed deaths, one of which was while in police custody.

The use of extreme force by officials has been criticised by most of the western world. Only a few, however, have formally condemned the results, which once again saw Lukashenko victorious a suspiciously high 80.1% of the vote.

President Lukashenko, “Europe’s last dictator”, has overseen Belarus for 26 years and has headed a repressive government with a tight grip on media.

The Belarussian President has been in contact with long-time ally, Vladimir Putin, and has stated the importance of controlling the situation in Belarus as it could potentially have ramifications in Russia itself. The Kremlin has stated that these issues will not “harm the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries within the framework of the union state,”

Russia and Belarus have shared a close relationship since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1999 both nations entered a “Union State”: a supranational union linking the two ex-soviet republics in economic and political terms.

The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have jointly condemned the violence and called for fairer and more transparent elections. Opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was forced to leave for Lithuania with her family since denouncing the election results. The European Union, meanwhile, has been working towards imposing new sanctions.

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Marco Rizzo