Belarusian football ultras who faced Alexander Lukashenko – Audio Long Reads
Since Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, stole an election two years ago, his regime, already one of the most repressive in Europe, has cracked down on real and imagined opponents. These include fanatical supporters – ‘ultras’ – of Belarusian football clubs, inspired by tales of Ukrainian football hooligans joining protests in Kyiv that led to the ousting of a pro-Russian president in 2014.
Like the Ukrainians, the Belarusian ultras opposed Moscow’s influence on their country for nationalist reasons. They joined protests after the August 2020 election, but hundreds were arrested, dozens fled to Poland and one was found dead in suspicious circumstances.
Maria Wilczek recounts how the hard men of Belarusian football became dissidents, political prisoners and exiles. The roots of the story are tied to the conflict in neighboring Ukraine: Russia used Belarus as a client state and a launching pad for its regional ambitions.
This story was edited by Neil Arun. It was produced for the Journalism Excellence Fellowship, supported by the ERSTE Foundation, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.
This article originally appeared on Newstatesman.com on May 14. You can read the text version here.
Read by Alix Kroeger
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