Europe’s ‘last dictator’: Who is Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko? | Vladimir Putin News

With gray hair, chevron-like mustaches and strong rural voices, Alexander Lukashenko, a former farm manager and former communist leader, was the only lawyer in Soviet Belarus who voted against his country’s independence from Russia in 1991. ..

Three years later, he took office and promised to “reunite” the two countries – but voluntarily.

Lukasjenko was only 39 years old when he won the election – an inexperienced but determined and very legitimate reformer.

In the mid-1990s there was darkness and despair, with terrorist groups, high prices and crippling wealth; Lukashenko gave Belarussian people a “stability” rather than a riot, a transition from capitalism to Russia and Ukraine.

“Everyone [plant and factory] closed, there were empty shelves in the shops and people gathered in city squares. I remember the price of bread went up 18 times a day, “he told a Russian reporter in 2009.

Many Belarusians still remember his day – and promises that never came.

“I thought he saved us from the ‘wild capitalism’ of the 1990s, and I voted for him twice,” said Vladislav, 57, a Belarusian leader who leads a group of construction workers in the Moscow region.

“But the Russian people survived and are much better off than they were in the 1990s – and even better than we are. And we have 30 years left,” Vladislav, who did not give his last name for fear of reprisals, told Al Jazeera.

Lukashenko was the first president of Belarus, an office that no one has ever occupied.

He won a sixth term last year in a by-election that disrupted Minsk’s relations with Western governments.

An important point

Following that vote, Belarusian police and law enforcement officials tortured, arrested and tortured thousands of people who protested for several weeks against the success of the August 20, 2020 election, according to witnesses, protesters and freedom groups.

As critics, Westerners said the election was rigged.

The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom now no longer recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president and he has them he was punished which disrupted the economy and excluded a long-time ruler whose international support was Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But despite pressure and prejudice, Lukashenko cultivates his negative image by openly mocking West.

“I’m not worried about what you think of the Belarussian President in the European Union. It was not the EU that elected me,” he told the BBC on November 22 – adding that US President Joe Biden was elected “illegally.”

In recent weeks, Westerners have accused him of being a failure migration problem allowing thousands of refugees – mostly from the Middle East – to arrive in Belarus to cross the border with Poland or Lithuania.

“Her behavior in the past year has shown that political isolation has made her a deceitful, careless and young person,” said Ivar Dale, a policy adviser to the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, a human rights watchdog.

“What you see is an unstable and dangerous person who is clinging to power, a power that he believes can be his own,” he told Al Jazeera.


But this is not the first time Lukasjenko has tried to stay afloat in the political turmoil.

Named the “last dictator of Europe” 20 years ago during a time when Putin was seen as a new Western politician, Lukashenko was used in the fight against opposition and Western sanctions.

“He’s a smart player – in any situation, he can come back a little bit or play for a while until the external problems are over,” Nikolay Mitrokhin, a researcher at Germany’s Bremen University, told Al Jazeera.

Lukashenko’s opponents have been silent for years about beatings and arrests, freedom groups wrote. Some were imprisoned, others fled, and still others went missing.

What helped him cope with the growing number of protesters in the town was the police and police force, especially those recruited from rural communities who earn higher wages than the average, Mitrokhin said.

“He set up an operational plan of his rule based on the strengths of former settlers who passed by the military and intellectuals, who hate ‘the shameful people in the city’ and therefore have no qualms about doing whatever Lukashenen offers,” he said.

Under Lukashenko, Belarus remained a mini-USSR stored in amber, and its rule was based on three corners, observers say.

First, he managed the economy carefully by preserving the farms of Soviet-era groups, state-owned industries that process Russian waste, machinery and fertilizer. The regime prevented the emergence of billions of oligarchs whose money and connections did a great job in Russia and Ukraine.

Second, he did all he could to reduce the middle class – the rich, the pro-Western and some of his biggest opponents.

When the newcomers attacked last year’s protests, they forced thousands to flee to Ukraine and the EU.

Third, he formed a political alliance with the Kremlin.

Back in 1997, Lukashenko signed an agreement to form a “government agreement” with Russia, with a single government, laws and finance. He hopes to replace Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who is ill – and suspended the deal after Putin came to power in 2000.

Lukashenko also used anti-Western protests in Western Ukraine in 2005 and 2014 as a pretext to sue the Kremlin over countless billions of dollars in debt, trade deals and political aid.

‘There is no depth in his steps’

Today, Lukashenko’s politics are on a downward spiral as never before.

“Lukashenko’s problem stems from the resolution of these issues – he is still improving [economic] economy, but it has no depth in its control, as the central production team is coming, “Aleksey Kushch, a researcher based in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, told Al Jazeera.

May migration crisis and forced landing on a Ryan Air flight to Belarus, Minsk, for construction Belarusian opponent, accelerated Lukashenko’s transformation into a global man.

“Last year, Lukashenko was seen as a usurper who seized power and fought with his people,” said Alexander Opeikin, who led a successful Minsk handball team before participating in last year’s protests and became an aspiring fugitive.

“Now, it is clear that Lukashenko is a threat to the security of the region, a man who, according to his actions, could be called a global terrorist,” Opeikin, who fled to Ukraine, told Al Jazeera.

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