Thousands of people gathered to say goodbye to Roman Bondarenka outside Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Minsk on Friday. The 31-year-old died last week after being brutally detained by masked people in Changes Square and then brought to hospital in a coma.
On Friday, 20 November, Minskers were coming from all over the city to say goodbye to Roman Bondarenko. Many brought white and red flowers and funeral wreaths signed by residents of various neighbourhoods: “Kaskad”, “Airport”, “Mayak Minsk” and others.
Police cars were spotted in courtyards and at crossroads not far from the church. But traffic was not blocked, both cars and public transport were free to drive. However, due to the large flow of people, traffic jams formed, many left their cars and went to the church on foot.
The crowd outside the church was heard chanting “I’m going out” [the last known written words of Bondarenko – Ed.], “Long live Belarus!”, “Roma, you are a hero”, and “We will not forget, we will not forgive!”.
At some point, people observed a moment of silence – they simultaneously raised their arms in the air and stood still and quiet. When a coffin with Roman was carried out of the church, thousands broke into applause and cars blared their horns non-stop in the street.
Roman was buried in the Northern Cemetery, many decided to follow a hearse.
Recall that on the evening of 11 November, masked people arrived at the “changes courtyard” on Chervyakova Street in Minsk. They cut off white-red-white ribbons and painted over a mural on a transformer box. Later the Ministry of Internal Affairs described them as “concerned citizens”. Local residents were outraged by the actions of the intruders.
Among them was 31-year-old Roman Bondarenko, who sent a message “I’m going out” in a chat room of the neighbourhood before going outside. In the yard, he said something to unknown people, they tied him up and dragged into a car. The same night the man was brought to hospital with a severe head injury. He died on 12 November.
Immeditaley, numerous footages showing an incident in Changes Square emerged and eyewitnessed told that they saw men resembling the current head of the Ice Hockey Federation of Belarus Dmitry Baskov and the world champion in Muay Thai and kickboxing Dmitry Shakuta, who allegedly took part in an assault.
The Investigative Committee started the investigation into the death of Roman Bondarenko, and on 13 November, Alexander Lukashenko instructed the Prosecutor General’s Office to take control of the investigation. So far, the prosecutor’s office did not report on the initiation of a criminal case into the death.
Several high-ranking officials, as well as the Investigative Committed, stated that Bondarenko was drunk and died in a scuffle with civilians. However, the family of the deceased has a copy of the results of a blood test, which states there was no alcohol in his bloodstream. Roman’s mother allowed this information to be passed on to the media and publish it.
Yesterday, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced the initiation of a criminal case on “disclosure of confidential medical information” and “provision of false information” about Roman Bondarenko’s death, which “fuelled tensions in society”. The medic and TUT.BY journalist who published the report were detained, both are supposedly at the KGB pre-trial detention center.