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Who’s Alexander Lukashenko? A better take a look at the dictator who has maintained an iron grip on Belarus for over 2 a long time.

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FILE PHOTO: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he takes part in the celebrations of Independence Day in Minsk, Belarus July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Belarusian President Lukashenko takes half within the celebrations of Independence Day in Minsk Reuters

  • Lukashenko has dominated the jap European nation of Belarus for over 26 years.

  • In 2020, he rigged an election and declared that he gained 80% of the vote, naming himself president for a sixth time period.

  • This week, he grounded a passenger aircraft with the intention to detain journalist Roman Protasevich.

  • See extra tales on Insider’s enterprise web page.

A dramatic series of occasions involving a Ryanair passenger jet being diverted and compelled to land in Minsk prompted a global outcry after it was revealed that the bomb risk that grounded the plan was merely a ruse to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich.

Protasevich, 26, is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of NEXTA, a news channel primarily based in Poland that unfold clips of mass protests towards Lukashenko by way of encrypted messaging app Telegram. He’s a vocal opponent of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and was in exile within the neighboring nation of Lithuania till he and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, had been dragged off the Ryanair aircraft and detained.

The transfer drew condemnation from world leaders – together with the US. In line with CNN, the European Union has sanctioned Belarus and can be calling on all EU airways to not fly over the nation. European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen added on Monday that additional financial sanctions on the nation could be put in place quickly.

However the root of the drama swirling across the Jap European nation lies in Lukashenko himself. The 66-year-old has stored a agency grip on energy in Belarus for over 26 years – and has no qualms about enraging the worldwide neighborhood simply to detain one activist.

A strongman with a navy background and Russian ties

Alexander Lukashenko

The story of Lukashenko’s rise to energy in Belarus begins in 1990. Then, he was in his late 30s and was a promising younger navy man who simply gained an election to a parliamentary seat within the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Lukashenko boasts shut ties to the Soviet Union, detailing a timeline of his beforehand held posts within the Soviet Military and his membership within the Soviet communist youth wing. At one level, in 1993, Lukashenko was named head of the Belarusian parliament’s anti-corruption fee.

In 1994, Lukashenko was elected president with 80.3% of the vote, working on the pledge to “take the nation again from the abyss” – and has managed to carry on to energy since.

Lukashenko’s maintain on energy wavers in 2020, and he’s dubbed “Europe’s final dictator”

protests minsk
Folks attend an opposition rally to reject the presidential election outcomes and to protest towards the inauguration of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus. Tut.by in Minsk/ Reuters

Lukashenko’s maintain on energy has wavered within the final yr as he confronted robust opposition within the 2020 election. Fearing that he may be toppled, he falsified election outcomes – declaring that he gained 80% of the vote and giving himself a sixth time period.

This transfer sparked protests throughout the nation. Sanctions had been even imposed final yr by the UK and Canada towards Belarus officers in a bid by a gaggle of Western nations, who tried to take Lukashenko to job for rigging the elections and repressing peaceable protests.

In line with Politico, it’s estimated that greater than 35,000 Belarusians had been arrested throughout this rebellion, with 1000’s going through abuse and torture in police custody. Through the protests, Lukashenko tried on a number of events to show a facade of energy – at one level releasing a video of himself stepping off a helicopter clad in a bulletproof vest whereas toting an assault rifle.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a powerful ally of the Belarusian chief – even extending a $1.5 billion mortgage to Belarus in 2020 as a “gesture of help” and volunteering assist from the Russian police throughout the protests.

Al Jazeera reported that Russia additionally despatched in Kremlin-linked journalists to alter the best way the protests had been lined in Belarusian state media.

A 2020 report from the Guardian indicated then that Lukashenko was cracking below strain, although he continued to withstand requires him to resign. Some media shops then dubbed Lukashenko “Europe’s final dictator” – although some argue that whereas he’s a dictator, he is not going to be the final.

His dealing with of the COVID pandemic in Belarus drew widespread criticism and additional requires him to step down. However Lukashenko has maintained his grip on energy.

Throughout a go to to a Minsk wheeled tractor plant final yr, he countered a query about truthful elections by saying: “I’m answering your query. We held elections. Till you kill me, there can be no different elections.”

Lukashenko’s widespread crackdown on opposition and dissent

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Roman Protasevich talking throughout a rally in Gdansk, Poland on 31 August 2020. Picture by Michal Fludra/NurPhoto by way of Getty Pictures

Analysts say that the grounding of the Ryanair passenger aircraft this week is a sign that Lukashenko will proceed to accentuate his crackdown on impartial media and pursue journalists who’re on the run – even at the price of scary the worldwide neighborhood.

“This can be a political message to the Belarusian political migrants of the brand new wave, and however, to his supporters, the so-called ‘electoral swamp,'” Igar Tyshkevich, a Belarusian analyst primarily based in Ukraine, informed Al Jazeera.

“The message is that the federal government is powerful and will get to anybody,” Tyshkevich added.

So maybe the most effective encapsulation of Lukashenko’s life would possibly, mockingly, be one which he wrote about himself.

“My life, similar to the lives of different presidents, could be very busy. You get up and preserve working. What does it really feel wish to be on the run for 25 years? I bought used to it,” says a quote from Lukashenko that’s proudly displayed on his official on-line biography.

It continues: “This hamster wheel retains spinning, and there’s no escaping it. In the event you cease, it should preserve shifting and throw you again. This can be a mode of life. I’m used to it.”

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