A MAN who dumped poo outside the office of an ally of Vladimir Putin has died in “unclear circumstances” while in prison.
The Belarusian artist Ales Pushkin, 57, died in Grodno in western Belarus while serving a five-year sentence, according to his wife and human rights activists.
He died of an unknown cause, even though he wasn’t known to be sick, the Viasna human rights centre says.
His wife, Janina Demuch, told the AP he died in the intensive care unit of the prison under unclear circumstances.
Belarusian authorities did not comment.
Pushkin was a political performer and cartoonist whose subject was often President Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s authoritarian leader.
The artist painted Lukashenko in hell, surrounded by riot police, on a fresco in a church in the Belarusian city of Bobr.
In 1999, Pushkin was sentenced to two years for Dung for the President, in which he overturned a dung cart at the entrance to the presidential office in Minsk, the country’s capital.
Pushkin was an active participant in political opposition protests.
In March 2021, he was arrested, then sentenced to five years in prison for inciting hatred and desecration of state symbols.
Allegedly, at one of his exhibitions, Pushkin painted a Belarusian nationalist who collaborated with the Nazis during World War 2.
During the sentencing, Ales undressed in protest, for which he was placed in solitary confinement for 13 days.
Belarus was gripped by massive protests when Lukashenko was re-elected in August 2020 in balloting that some citizens and Western officials considered fraudulent.
Authorities responded with a brutal crackdown that resulted in the arrest of more than 35,000 people, police beatings and the shutdown of many non-governmental organisations and independent media outlets.
According to Viasna, Belarus has jailed nearly 1,500 political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said she was heartbroken about Pushkin’s death, and demanded an investigation.
“It is clear that Pushkin has become another tragic victim of the Lukashenko regime,” she said. “Thousands of political prisoners are suffering in Belarusian prisons for taking part in pro-democracy protests, supporting Ukraine, or simply expressing their beliefs.”
Last month, Lukashenko accidentally revealed that Putin had shown him a peace deal over the Ukraine war.
The Belarus leader has shockingly claimed the deal included a humiliating defeat for Russia over Crimea.
Lukashenko is the Kremlin’s sole ally in Europe and regularly speaks to Putin.
Lukashenko’s claim came after he boasted that Russian nuclear missiles had arrived in Belarus and vowed he “won’t hesitate” to use them.