Belarus Olympian to go on hunger strike as political protest

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — An Olympic silver medalist who is one of Belarus’ most lauded athletes says he is going on a 10-day hunger strike to support victims of political repression in the country.

Andrei Krauchanka, who medaled in the decathlon at the 2008 Games in Beijing, said Friday that he also is selling his European indoor decathlon gold medal from 2011 to help the families of political prisoners.

Protesters in Belarus spent months last year calling for authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko to resign, following an allegedly rigged August presidential election that gave him a sixth term in office.

Police cracked down harshly on the protests, arresting more than 34,000 people and beating many of them. Krauchanka was among those detained and beaten.

“Real people are sitting behind bars right now – these are their real lives, these are the broken lives of their families,” Kravchenko said in a statement about his hunger strike. “It is very difficult for me to digest this terrifying Belarusian reality.”

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