“It was hardly a fight” — Belarusian Loses His Life For Daring to Defend the Revolution for Freedom

Yauhen Yerchak/EPA, via nytimes.com

— Trigger warning: Police brutality, Violence—

aving been delivered to the intensive care unit of the Minsk emergency care hospital on this Wednesday night, 31-year-old Roman Bondarenko died on Thursday evening, 12th of November 2020, due to fatal injuries.

Roman was admitted to the hospital from one of the Minsk police stations, with the officials stating that he was injured during a fight. At the time of admission, he was already in a coma with large cerebral edema, closed head injury, hematomas, bruises and abrasions. The operation lasted several hours, the doctors had to perform a craniotomy so as to relieve the pressure of the brain on the cranium.

The young man was in critical condition, and never came out of the coma — not before nor after the operation. Several additional operations were required, but Roman’s condition at the time wasn’t allowing any further surgical intervention, and on Thursday evening he got worse.

He started having a fever, and at eight o’clock in the evening, Roman passed away.

It all began when masked people in civilian clothing arrived at the infamous Square of Change (Площадь Перемен) on Wednesday evening, and began to rip off the white-red-white ribbons that were spread across the place.

In his final message to his neighborhood's Telegram chat, he told everyone that he would go outside to ask around what was going on. At some point, a verbal exchange had ensued between people at the site. While Roman wasn’t involved initially, he was nevertheless dragged into it by one of the masked men — who called Roman a “smart-ass prick” — and pushed him into the children’s slide.

Roman hit his head against the slide, and what happened afterwards were described by eyewitnesses as “hardly a fight”. Roman was tied up, pinned to the ground and taken into an unidentified vehicle. He didn’t get all his injuries on the site of the event, but, most likely, he was viciously beaten in the police department or on the way there.

The press secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Olga Chemodanova, just before Roman’s death, made an official statement that the police had nothing to do with the incident with him, but it was some “responsible citizens” who were trying to restore order in the residential complex.

It later became known that before Roman’s could reach the intensive care unit, Roman’s personal belongings and clothes had been taken away from there. This was most likely done so that it would be impossible to trace the marks on his clothes to the criminals who beat him to death — without the physical evidence it is now much harder to do.

Immediately after the news of Roman’s death, people from all over Minsk began to flock to the Square of Change to honor his memory. All over the country, people lit candles, drove around to honk their cars, and set up memorials.

People gathered in the Square of Change and chanted “To the military court!”.

Riot policemen tried to drive up to the square to interrupt the spontaneous gathering, but the drivers blocked the road. The officials failed in their mission to disrupt the event.

Roman Bondarenko

We do not know much about Roman — but we know that used to serve in the special forces. He was also an artist, he taught children to draw, and also had recently resigned from the position of a store director.

Rest in Peace, Roman Bondarenko. May the sacrifice of your life not be in vain.

Верым, можам, пераможам!

This account was translated from Russian to English — edited for clarity.

True stories of the horrors happening in Belarus — in 2020

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