| 19 May 2024, Sunday |

Belarus forces kill IT worker in shootout, opposition says

Belarusian security forces shot dead a man and arrested his wife during a raid in an apartment block in Minsk on Tuesday, the KGB security service said.

The man had opened fire against the security forces, one of whom also died, a statement said. Reuters could not independently verify the statement or footage of the incident that was aired on Belarusian state television.

A senior adviser to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya identified the man as an IT worker with software company EPAM Systems, which is also based in the United States.

“He was also reportedly a U.S. citizen. According to his friends, he supported democracy movement in Belarus. His wife is detained. Mother is shocked,” Franak Viačorka, Tsikhanouskaya’s adviser, wrote on Twitter.

“I have only one comment: violence must stop! The regime hopes that violence can split society and threaten opponents. But violence cannot be the solution to the crisis. Enough victims. The rule of law must return to the country.”

EPAM systems and the U.S. embassy could not immediately be reached for comment.

The official state news agency Belta reported the man was associated with the opposition movement, citing a lawmaker. The KGB did not identify the man by name or profession but said he was a “terrorist” – language it uses to describe protesters.

“In response to the lawful demands of law enforcement officers, a 31-year-old resident of Minsk refused to open the door of the apartment and was locked inside it. For the subsequent so-called ‘hype’, he was filming,” the Investigative Committee of Belarus, which investigates major crimes, said in a statement.

“Given the nature of the violence used, armed resistance from a 31-year-old man, he was liquidated with return fire.”

Forces loyal to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko have unleashed a violent crackdown on protests following a disputed election last year, including searches of apartment blocks where they believed protesters were hiding.

In power since 1994, Lukashenko has defied opposition calls to step down and described the protesters as criminals bent on violent uprising.


  • Reuters