A spokeswoman for Belarus’ embattled leader Alexander Lukashenko has been forced to deny he was handed a victory in a skiing competition after footage circulated online that appeared to show his opponent deliberately falling over.
The clip quickly gained traction online, with users alleging that the fellow skier had deliberately hit the ground in order to avoid overtaking the veteran president.
However, press secretary Natalia Eismont insisted that Lukashenko doesn’t accept anything but a fair contest. “What freebies can there be when there are thousands of people watching,” she asked. “The president has the toughest of attitudes to these kind of giveaways, which can lose you your job.”
According to her, the president had already won his medal in a relay race at the Minsk Ski Track, which was hanging proudly round his neck during the video. She insisted that the clip instead captured a completely different event he was not actually taking part in – involving amateur beginners – and the president was not racing against the falling man.
Belarus has been hit by a wave of protests since summer last year when Lukashenko declared victory in the country’s presidential elections. The country’s opposition, and many international observers, say the vote was rigged in his favor, and hundreds of thousands have since taken to the streets to demand a fresh vote.
Demonstrations have frequently been met by violence from the police and the elite riot force, the OMON, with hundreds detained. Meanwhile, there has been a large-scale exodus of opposition activists and liberal young professionals from the country over the course of the crackdown.
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