Thousands mourn death of Belarus protester

Thousands of people carrying candles and flowers gathered in Belarus’ capital Minsk to mourn the death of a 31-year-old anti-government protester who they allege was badly beaten by security forces.

According to witnesses, Roman Bondarenko was detained after a physical altercation with people in plainclothes who were trying to remove red-and-white ribbons that represent the protest movement against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Bondarenko later died in the hospital.

The interior ministry denied any responsibility for his death, saying he was killed after a scuffle with civilians.

The death is the latest flashpoint in months of mass protests against Lukashenko after a disputed presidential election in August.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who stood against Lukashenko in the election and then fled into exile, called Bondarenko a hero of Belarus and urged people to keep on protesting.

The opposition says Lukashenko rigged the vote to secure his sixth successive term.

Lukashenko denies electoral fraud and with support from traditional ally Russia, he’s shown no sign of stepping down.