Last week, demonstration activity in Eastern Europe continued at low levels. Demonstrations in Belarus against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko continued, spurred by national outrage over the killing of a man by unofficial forces, thought to be operating in support of the state. Demonstrations across Eastern Europe over government responses to the coronavirus pandemic as well as increased restrictions took place in Croatia, Greece, Serbia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and the Republic of Cyprus. Meanwhile, demonstrations against Turkish interference in Northern Cypriot politics took place in Northern Cyprus. Demonstrations in Russia in support of the popular former governor of Khabarovsk, Sergei Furgal, continued, while demonstrations in Tomsk were sparked by the arrest of a local mayor.
In Belarus, demonstrations took place throughout the week against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko and police brutality. Police forces met demonstrators with force and made around 1,000 arrests (Amnesty International, 9 November 2020). 31-year-old Roman Bondarenko was beaten to death by masked men, who were likely unofficial forces operating in support of the state to suppress discontent. He was attacked while attempting to determine why they were taking down protest symbols hung in public spaces. After severely beating him, his assailants put him in a van and took him to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was taken from there to the hospital where he died (Charter 97, 15 November 2020). His killing prompted a national response, with commemoration demonstrations taking place and memorials constructed across the country. Bondarenko’s murder has added new vigor to the demonstration movement (RFE/RL, 13 November 2020).
Demonstrations in response to increased restrictions on daily life due to the increased severity of the coronavirus pandemic took place across Eastern Europe. In Croatia, Greece, Serbia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and the Republic of Cyprus, people staged demonstrations against their governments’ responses, citing economic concerns and concerns over individual freedom. In the Republic of Cyprus these demonstrations turned violent, and in Greece government forces detained numerous students who were breaking curfew. In the latter, demonstrations were held calling for increased government support for the National Health System (AMNA, 12 November 2020; The National Herald, 12 November 2020). In Russia as well, demonstrators criticized authorities for their poor handling of the second wave of the coronavirus (Tayga.Info, 14 November 2020).
In Northern Cyprus, thousands demonstrated against external intervention in the Turkish Cypriot community. They condemned Turkey’s efforts to boost support for President Ersin Tatar in the recent presidential election. The Turkish-Cypriot demonstrators came from most segments of the political spectrum and demanded a dignified secular future with international recognition for Northern Cyprus (Yeniduzen, 10 November 2020; Cyprus Mail, 10 November 2020). Turkey supports the conservative Ersin Tatar who intends to bring Northern Cyprus closer to Turkey. Tatar is supported by, and in turn supports, conservative religious parties in Turkey.
In Russia, demonstrations against federal persecution of regional political figures took place in Khabarovsk and Tomsk. The Khabarovsk demonstrations in support of the popular former governor, Sergei Furgal — who his supporters believe has been arrested for political reasons — continued past their 127th day last week (RFE/RL, 14 November 2020). Supporters of the mayor of Tomsk, who was arrested on corruption and abuse of power charges, demonstrated against his arrest — which they feel is politically motivated (Tomsk.ru, 13 November 2020).
Lastly, in the Donbas region of Ukraine, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-led separatists remained at very low levels. There were 13 armed clashes, 41 shelling incidents, and no fatalities reported.
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