/Thousands gather in Belarus to mourn protester who was beaten to death by undercover policeman

Thousands gather in Belarus to mourn protester who was beaten to death by undercover policeman

Thousands take to the streets of Belarus to mourn protester who was beaten to death by undercover policeman in children’s playground

  • Witnesses say Roman Bondarenko was beaten by Belarusian security forces
  • The 31-year-old anti-government protester later died in hospital from his injuries
  • The Belarusian interior ministry denied responsibility for Bondarenko’s death
  • Thousands of mourners carrying flowers and candles gathered in Minsk

Thousands of people carrying candles and flowers gathered in Minsk on Thursday to mourn the death of a 31-year-old anti-government protester who they say was badly beaten by Belarusian security forces and died in hospital.

Witnesses say Roman Bondarenko was detained after scuffling with people in plain clothes who had come to a children’s playground to remove red-and-white ribbons that represent the protest movement against veteran President Alexander Lukashenko.

The interior ministry denied responsibility for Bondarenko’s death, saying he was killed due to a scuffle with civilians.

Thousands of people gathered to mourn the death of anti-government protester Roman Bonarenko in Minsk on Thursday

Thousands of people gathered to mourn the death of anti-government protester Roman Bonarenko in Minsk on Thursday

Thousands of people gathered to mourn the death of anti-government protester Roman Bonarenko in Minsk on Thursday

The mourners laid flowers and candles to pay tribute to the 31-year-old

The mourners laid flowers and candles to pay tribute to the 31-year-old

The mourners laid flowers and candles to pay tribute to the 31-year-old

Pictured, Roman Bondarenko, 31, was allegedly beaten to death by plain clothed police officers in Minsk, Belarus

Pictured, Roman Bondarenko, 31, was allegedly beaten to death by plain clothed police officers in Minsk, Belarus

Pictured, Roman Bondarenko, 31, was allegedly beaten to death by plain clothed police officers in Minsk, Belarus

Mourners say Bonarenko was badly beaten by Belarusian security forces and died in hospital

Mourners say Bonarenko was badly beaten by Belarusian security forces and died in hospital

Mourners say Bonarenko was badly beaten by Belarusian security forces and died in hospital

Above, a woman is overcome with emotion at the ceremony held in tribute to the protester

Above, a woman is overcome with emotion at the ceremony held in tribute to the protester

Above, a woman is overcome with emotion at the ceremony held in tribute to the protester

Witnesses say Roman Bondarenko was detained after scuffling with people in plain clothes who had come to a children's playground to remove red-and-white ribbons that represent the protest movement against veteran President Alexander Lukashenko

Witnesses say Roman Bondarenko was detained after scuffling with people in plain clothes who had come to a children's playground to remove red-and-white ribbons that represent the protest movement against veteran President Alexander Lukashenko

Witnesses say Roman Bondarenko was detained after scuffling with people in plain clothes who had come to a children’s playground to remove red-and-white ribbons that represent the protest movement against veteran President Alexander Lukashenko

The death is the latest flashpoint in months of mass protests against Lukashenko following a disputed presidential election in August. The opposition says Lukashenko rigged the vote to secure a sixth successive term.

Lukashenko denies electoral fraud and, buoyed by support from traditional ally Russia, has shown little inclination to step down. A violent crackdown prompted a new round of Western sanctions on Minsk.

‘Shocked by the death of Raman Bandarenka,’ Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Twitter.

‘Astonishing cynicism, cruelty of the regime and blunt ignorance of people’s aspirations for changes.’

The interior ministry denied responsibility for Bondarenko's death, saying he was killed due to a scuffle with civilians. Above, mourners gathered in Minsk on Thursday to pay tribute to Bondarenko

The interior ministry denied responsibility for Bondarenko's death, saying he was killed due to a scuffle with civilians. Above, mourners gathered in Minsk on Thursday to pay tribute to Bondarenko

The interior ministry denied responsibility for Bondarenko’s death, saying he was killed due to a scuffle with civilians. Above, mourners gathered in Minsk on Thursday to pay tribute to Bondarenko

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said he was 'shocked' by the death of the protester. Above, people take a moment to mourn the death of Bondarenko

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said he was 'shocked' by the death of the protester. Above, people take a moment to mourn the death of Bondarenko

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said he was ‘shocked’ by the death of the protester. Above, people take a moment to mourn the death of Bondarenko

Thousands hold their phone torches in the air at the vigil held for Bondarenko in Minsk, Belarus

Thousands hold their phone torches in the air at the vigil held for Bondarenko in Minsk, Belarus

Thousands hold their phone torches in the air at the vigil held for Bondarenko in Minsk, Belarus

A picture of the 31-year-old can be seen amongst a flourish of flowers and scores of candles

A picture of the 31-year-old can be seen amongst a flourish of flowers and scores of candles

A picture of the 31-year-old can be seen amongst a flourish of flowers and scores of candles 

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who stood against Lukashenko in the election and then fled into exile, called Bondarenko a hero of Belarus.

‘Unfortunately, despite all the efforts of the emergency hospital doctors, the patient died,’ a statement by the health ministry said.

Britain expelled two Belarusian diplomats on Tuesday in response to two of its own diplomats being expelled from Belarus.

London also summoned the Belarusian ambassador to deliver a message that it believes the only way forward is for fresh elections to be held and for those responsible for violence against demonstrators to be held to account.