A 31-year-old man shot dead by Belarusian security forces this week in a raid on a building in the capital Minsk was an employee of US software company Epam Systems, the company said.
Images broadcast on state television showed plainclothes officers breaking open the door of an apartment and a man shooting them as they entered.
Belarusian authorities said KGB officers shot the man on Tuesday after opening fire on security forces, one of whom also died. A KGB statement said his wife had been arrested.
The Belarusian investigative committee, which is investigating major crimes, said a 31-year-old man was “shot back” after resisting law enforcement. Reuters was unable to independently verify statements or footage of the incident that aired on Belarusian state television.
Forces loyal to President Alexander Lukashenko have unleashed a violent crackdown on protests following contested elections last year, including searches of apartment buildings where they believed protesters were hiding.
In power since 1994, Lukashenko has defied Western sanctions and opposition calls to step down and described the protesters as criminals prone to violent uprising.
The IT industry – mostly housed in a state-run tech park on the outskirts of Minsk – was a driving force behind the protests. The Belarusian founder of Epam signed an open letter calling for the release of prisoners and new elections.
Local media and a senior adviser to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya identified the man killed as Andrei Zeltser, an Epam computer scientist. A LinkedIn page from a man of the same name says he’s been with Epam since 2016.
“Although the individual in question has not been named by any official source, we can confirm that the individual reported in the media was an Epam employee,” Epam said. “The company has no information that the individual ever had any other citizenship or residency status outside of Belarus.”
Tsikhanouskaya earlier described the incident as “a result of anarchy in Belarus”. She added: “Our people no longer feel safe, even at home. The autocrat who clings to power through violence and terror creates a confrontation between Belarusians.
Belarusian KGB officers on Thursday arrested 50 people accused of insulting a government official or inciting social hatred after the incident, human rights group Viasna-96 said. “Apparently the arrests are linked to comments on social media regarding the deaths of Andrei Zeltser and a KGB officer,” the rights group said. The Interior Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lukashenko’s spokeswoman said the death of the KGB officer “would not go unpunished”.
The state’s official news agency, Belta, reported the man was associated with the opposition movement, citing a lawmaker. The KGB did not identify the man by name or profession, but said he was a “terrorist” – the language it uses to describe protesters.
“I can’t say or think anything. I’m shocked, I don’t understand what’s going on, ”Belarusian media Nasha Niva said, citing Zeltser’s mother-in-law. “Andrei is a very good person, a wonderful son-in-law.
“Do I consider Andrei a terrorist? Of course not.”