“Europe’s Last Dictator” Increases Stakes with the West

Moscow (AP) — During most of his 27 years as the authoritarian president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko’s repression and violent remarks often offended the West. This year, the good fight has had a direct impact on Europe.

His government forced a passenger plane flying between Greece and Lithuania, which was carrying political opponents, to be diverted. When the European Union imposed sanctions on its actions, Belarus responded by easing border control over immigrants from the Middle East and Africa and allowing them to move to the EU frontier.

As a result, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania were forced to declare a state of emergency in the border area and prevent illegal crossings. Warsaw sent thousands of riot police and troops to strengthen security, creating a tense conflict.

Since then, Lukashenko has raised his stake by threatening to block the transport of natural gas from Russia through Belarus. As winter settles down, it can have a serious impact on Europe.

This move is a dramatic escalation for Lukashenko, who became president in 1994, when Belarus was an ambiguous country that existed for less than three years.

His contempt for democratic norms and the country’s gruesome human rights records made Belarus a Western Paria and brought him a plea for “the last dictator of Europe.”

67-year-old Lukashenko prefers a “batka”-“father” or “dad” -style as a strict and wise patriarch.

Lukashenko occasionally made moves towards reconciliation with the West, but abandoned mediation after a major demonstration against him in 2020 after the president’s sixth election. Opponents, and many in the West, rejected the results as a result of fraud.

Tens of thousands of protesters were arrested, many of whom were beaten by police. The main opponents fled the country or were imprisoned. Foreign journalists have been kicked out. The general public was reportedly arrested at “unauthorized mass gatherings,” including even birthday parties.

By curbing opposition through such harsh behavior and putting most of its economy under state control, Belarus is outliers in the New Soviet Union and is wary of the prosperity of NATO and its EU neighbors. He quarreled with Russia alternately and was comfortable.

He is famous for his benevolent behavior and provocative remarks, which rated the leaked US diplomatic cable as completely “strange.”

In 2006, he threatened protesters by saying, “Strangle like a duck.” He also received anxious attention in a television interview this Christmas season when he walked a fluffy little dog on the table in a festive dish.

His radical drama soared in May when he ordered a Ryanair airliner to Lithuania for Minsk and arrested Ramanplata Sevic, a journalist who was on board against exile. Belarusian officials said action was taken after the bomb threat on the plane, but Western officials dismissed it as a silly attempt to disguise what they called piracy. bottom.

Lukashenko with the strap played ice hockey frequently, such as when he went out in the spring of 2020 and asked a TV reporter if he saw the virus “flying around” in the arena and rejected the coronavirus. Shows the image of a tough guy. He also advised the Belarusians to “kill the virus with vodka”, go to the sauna and work in the fields to avoid infection, “the tractor will cure everyone!”

Once acclaimed by his compatriots as an anti-corruption leader, Lukashenko imprisoned his enemies for decades, suppressed independent media, held elections and gave him a term.

Protests took place after several votes, but were not large or sustainable enough to withstand club-shaking police and mass detention for long. After the 2020 vote, his opponents seemed to take advantage of their dissatisfaction. The economic downturn and Lukashenko’s refusal to act on COVID-19 added to their long-term disappointment.

The protests lasted for months, petting only when winter began. However, authorities reportedly arrested people for no apparent reason or pretending to be dressed in red and white colors of the opposition.

Lukashenko was born in a village in Belarus and has followed the traditional path to the ambitious rural Soviet Union. After graduating from the Agricultural Academy, he became a political instructor for the Border Guard and was eventually promoted to director of collective farms. In 1990, he became a member of the Belarusian Supreme Council, a parliament of the Republic.

He was the only member to vote against the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. When he won the first presidential election in the new country three years later, he seemed to be chased in many ways, keeping Belarus as an eerie and dysfunctional Soviet vestige.

Lukashenko put most of Belarus’ economy under state control while the neighboring former Soviet Republic was adapting to capitalism. It first gained his support because the Belarusians did not suffer from the pain of the economic restructuring of “shock therapy”.

However, the ossified state control of industry could not keep up with the energy and flexibility of the market. Belarusian Ruble was repeatedly devalued, with an average monthly income of only $ 480 in 2020.

The country’s major security agencies retained the symbolically sneaky KGB acronym. He also promoted a referendum to make the new flag almost the same as that of Belarus, which was used as the Soviet Republic.

Belarus, unlike all other European countries, still has the death penalty and reflects the execution of a Soviet show trial, which takes a total of about two minutes: prisoners are taken to a room and all complaints are He was rejected and reportedly shot after kneeling on the back of his head.

When Lukashenko took office, Belarus had little experience of being an independent country. As the Soviet Republic, it was part of another empire with only a brief attempt at post-World War I sovereignty. Belarus, sandwiched between eastern Russia and reformers, Western-style Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, was in a strategic position.

Lukashenko leaned strongly to the east. In 1997, he signed an agreement with Russia to form a “coalition” of close economic, military and political ties, but did not result in a complete merger.

The deal boosted Belarus’ economy, which relies heavily on Russian oil at prices below market prices. However, Lukashenko had the belief that Russia would eventually aim to take over Belarus altogether, and he was increasingly speaking out about them.

Lukashenko had nowhere else to seek help, as protests struck the country in 2020 and increased western pressure. Putin said he was ready to send police to Belarus if the protests became violent, but he never did.

This year, Lukashenko and Putin announced a broad agreement to consolidate the coalition, including the joint military doctrine. The agreement will significantly increase Russia’s influence in Belarus, but Lukashenko also gets a guarantee of support.