Belarusian authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued an order to deprive more than 80 former servicemen and law enforcement officers of their ranks accusing them of actions that are “incompatible” with their status, amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent following a disputed election last year.
Citing the presidential office, state news agency BelTa reported that Lukashenka signed the relevant decree on May 4, saying those deprived from their ranks had “discredited” the “honor and dignity of a serviceman and employee."
“They showed disrespect for state symbols, threw away their IDs, took off their shoulder straps, and refused to perform their official duties,” the report said.
Criminal cases have been initiated against a number of them and are being investigated, including for organizing acts of terrorism, the report added.
The 66-year-old Lukashenka, who has run the country since 1994, was officially declared the victor of the August 9, 2020 presidential election by a landslide, triggering almost daily protests demanding that the longtime strongman step down and new elections be held.
The opposition says the vote was rigged, and the West has refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus.
Security officials have cracked down hard on the demonstrators, arresting thousands, including dozens of journalists who covered the rallies, and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country.
Several protesters have been killed in the violence and some rights organizations say there is credible evidence of torture being used by security officials against some of those detained.