National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOC RB) has held a “For Belarus” bike ride in the country’s capital Minsk, despite ongoing protests in the country following the controversial Presidential election earlier this month.
The NOC RB is headed by Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the nation for 26 years and allegedly secured a landslide victory in a rare contested Presidential election in Belarus.
Lukashenko is said to have won with 80 per cent of the vote.
Protests in Belarus have continued since the disputed August 9 election, which the European Union has condemned as “neither free nor fair.”
Belarus has been described as “Europe’s last dictatorship” because of Lukashenko’s lengthy spell in power.
The result of the election has been disputed by the main opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, amid claims it was not conducted fairly.
Tikhanovskaya, who stepped into the race after her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky was prevented from running following his arrest for allegedly inciting disturbances in May, has now left Belarus for Lithuania.
The NOC RB has claimed it has held a bike ride featuring “distinguished sportsmen and sports sector officials”, with the event claimed to be “For Belarus”.
The ride reportedly saw participants visit the Minsk Hero City Obelisk, Komsomolskoe Lake, Minsk FC building, National Olympic Committee and Tennis Palace on August 28, before concluding at the Minsk Arena.
Skydivers from Belarusian paramilitary organisation, the DOSAAF, reportedly unfurled the Belarusian flag in the sky as part of the event.
Beijing 2008 Olympic canoe sprint champion Aleksandr Bogdanovich, Athens 2004 bronze medalist Natalya Cilinskaya and Anastasia Prokopenko, an Olympic bronze medallist in modern pentathlon, were among the participants.
NOC RB vice-president Viktor Lukashenko, the son of Alexander Lukashenko, was among the attendees.
Minister of Sports and Tourism Sergei Kovalchuk, Football Federation of Belarus chairman Vladimir Bazanov, Basketball Federation of Belarus chairman Maksim Ryzhenkov, head of sports and tourism Mikhail Prokopenko and vice premier-minister Igor Petrishenko also attended the ride as well.
Alexander and Viktor Lukashenko are among 30 Belarusian officials to have today been sanctioned by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Ryzhenkov is also among the officials sanctioned.
A statement from the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the individuals have a “central role in falsifying election results in Belarus and using violence against peaceful protesters.”
The statement confirmed a five-year ban on entry to Estonia to “Alexander Lukashenko, the minister of the interior of Belarus, the minister of justice, the prosecutor-general, officials of the President’s administration, members of the Central Commission of Belarus on Elections and representatives of law enforcement.”
“With these sanctions, we are demonstrating that we are addressing the human rights violations in Belarus with utmost seriousness,” said Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia’s Foreign Minister.
“At the same time, we consider it important not to punish the people of Belarus.”
Latvia says their sanctions on the individuals will apply for an indefinite period of time.
The three countries have called on the European Union to introduce similar sanctions on the officials.
Tens of thousands of protesters in Belarus defied threats of a Government crackdown yesterday, with a march held in the country’s capital Minsk.
Protesters attempted to march towards Independence Palace, Alexander Lukashenko’s residence.
Lukashenko’s press secretary sent Russian media outlet Ria Novosti a picture of him carrying a machine gun outside the building.
The latest protests came on Lukashenko’s 66th birthday.