Europe’s last dictator: Lukashenko’s fate depends on Ukraine

A young man wearing combat fatigues and an extravagant moustache, and carrying a heavy machine-gun over his shoulder, nods towards some burned-out armoured vehicles. ‘We smashed the orcs today,’ he says, using the Ukrainian soldiers’ term for the invading Russians, a reference to the sub-human legion in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He goes on: ‘Putin, you are a dickhead – your Greater Russia will die together with you.’ The soldier – his uniform has a badge saying ‘Ivanov’ in Cyrillic – is not, in fact, Ukrainian. He is one of a small number of volunteers from Belarus, next door, a country that is certainly part of the Greater

Belarusians in exile aren’t safe from the iron grip of Lukashenko

This week has laid bare the terrifying situation faced by Belarusians in their home country and abroad. From Tokyo’s Olympic village to the streets of Kiev and the courts of Minsk, the iron grip of president Alexander Lukashenko only seems to be tightening. With athletes joining political opponents and exiled activists in being targeted by the regime, many are now asking the question: where can Belarusians be safe? Certainly not at home. On Wednesday, a behind-closed-doors trial began in Minsk for two opposition figures involved in organising the huge protests which swept Belarus last year following elections widely held to have been fraudulent. Maria Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak have been charged

Lukashenko’s migrant warfare against the EU

When you have already forced a plane down with spurious claims of a bomb threat, just to arrest one dissident journalist, where do you go from there? For the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a man looking to punish the European Union after it imposed sanctions on Belarus, it seems that exploiting would-be migrants and asylum seekers is the way forward. Last week, the dictator threatened to send masses of migrants to the EU, in retaliation for the bloc’s sanctions against Belarus. ‘We will not stop anyone’, Lukashenko said, saying migrants would be on their way to a ‘warm and comfortable Europe’ soon. His goal in particular appeared to be to

Why Lukashenko keeps getting away with it

The diversion of a Ryanair flight bound for Lithuania from Athens and the arrest of passenger Roman Protasevich – an influential Belarusian blogger critical of the country’s dictatorial regime – is the latest tyrannical action to lead to expressions of grave concern and tempered outrage from the West. However, the fact that the passenger aircraft was forced to land by a Belarusian fighter jet on the pretence that the plane was carrying explosives is, arguably, a step up on the ladder of severity. Police brutality and the unlawful detention of opposition activists are quick to cause Western condemnation, but those still solely concern domestic matters – the interception of a