EU threatens more Belarus sanctions after protester’s death

Raman Bandarenka died in hospital after reportedly being beaten by security forces.

EU threatens more Belarus sanctions after protester’s death

The European Union is ready to impose additional sanctions on Belarusian officials, the bloc’s diplomatic service said following the death of a pro-democracy protester.

The death of 31-year-old Raman Bandarenka — who died in a Minsk hospital on Thursday after reportedly being beaten by plain-clothed security forces — triggered outrage in Belarus, where thousands gathered to mourn him with flowers and candles.

The European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic body, on Friday condemned the state’s crackdown on the ongoing mass protests against the rule of Alexander Lukashenko, whose reelection as president in August was broadly rejected as fraudulent.

Bandarenka’s death “is an outrageous and shameful result of the actions by the Belarusian authorities who have not only directly and violently carried out repression of their own population, but also created an environment whereby such lawless, violent acts can take place,” said EEAS spokesman Peter Stano in a statement.

Stano expressed condolences to Bandarenka’s friends and family and added that the EU “stands ready to impose additional sanctions” on Belarusian authorities.

The EU has already placed sanctions on dozens of Belarusian individuals. The latest set of penalties, which also targeted Lukashenko, were approved last week.

Witnesses say that Bandarenka was detained on Wednesday after a scuffle with plain-clothed men who wanted to remove red-white ribbons — symbols of the pro-democracy movement — from a square.

Leading human rights activist Ales Bialiatski said Bandarenka was handed over to the police and brutally beaten, according to the Associated Press. He died in hospital on Thursday.

Belarusian authorities have denied any responsibility in the protester’s death, saying he died as a result of a fight with other civilians.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said: “My heart is broken. I want to address the mother of Raman Bandarenka … your son has become an innocent victim of a terrible system. But for us, he will forever be the hero. We will continue fighting for your son and freedom in Belarus.”