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EVIL Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko has been desperately clinging to power during his decades-long oppressive reign.
If the Kremlin’s gun-toting ally isn’t ‘hijacking’ passenger planes, he’s busy overseeing the brutal punishment of his opponents, who are kept in line with electric shocks, severe beatings and broken bones, says a report.
Who is Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko?
Belarus President Alexander Luckashenko's glowing biography describes him as a "people’s politician", or “Batka” – father in Belarusian.
It whinges about his "difficult" childhood, which helped him "forge his character of steel and mold outstanding leadership qualities".
Born in 1954 in the town of Kopys, Orsha District, Vitebsk Oblast, he enjoyed sport and music.
"He was a great help for his mom who raised him alone," it adds.
Lukashenko has two university degrees, graduating from Kuleshov Mogilev State Pedagogical Institute where he majored in history.
By 1975 he was conscripted into the army where he served in the border troops.
He was a political instructor in the Western Border District (Brest). In 1980-1982 he served as deputy commander of a squadron (political officer) of a military unit of the Soviet Army.
From 1977 until 1990 Lukashenko worked in the food industry, overseeing collective farms, until he was elected president in 1994.
For decades, President Lukashenko has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means and a centralised economic system.
Outside of Belarus, the 66-year-old is derided as Europe's last dictator.
And he's called that for good reason.
"For over a year now, the strongman in Minsk has waged war on the Belarusian people," writes Joerg Forbrig, director for Central and Eastern Europe at the German Marshall Fund of the US, in Politico.
In 2020, for example, he faced extreme pressure to step aside after he declared himself victor in an allegedly rigged election.
Hundreds of thousands of fuming people bravely filled streets to voice their condemnation, with state workers going on strike.
But, an enraged and paranoid Lukashenko hit back hard.
Consumed with wreaking revenge, the internet was cut off by the regime and "Belarusian security forces arbitrarily detained thousands of people.
"[They] systematically subjected hundreds to torture and other ill- treatment in the days following the August 9, 2020 presidential election," Human Rights Watch said.
It added: "The victims described beatings, prolonged stress positions, electric shocks, and in at least one case, rape.
"They had serious injuries, including broken bones, cracked teeth, skin wounds, electrical burns, and mild traumatic brain injuries. Some had kidney damage."
Joerg Forbrig adds: "Faced with a popular uprising against his 26-year rule, Lukashenko went back to tried and tested methods of repression.
"He jailed opposition hopefuls and critics, used junta-style methods against peaceful mass protests and banned civil society organisations and independent media outlets.
"To date, more than 35,000 Belarusians have been arrested, thousands have been abused and tortured in police custody, and thousands more face criminal charges and long-term prison sentences."
But, says Forbrig, Lukashenko has now surpassed his internal "terror operation" by "going global".
Belarusian authorities on May 23, 2021, sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to forcefully divert Ryanair flight 4978, citing a bogus bomb threat.
The pilot had no choice but to fly to Minsk, en route to Lithuania.
Once there, the president's guards arrested and detained Russian university student Sofia Sapega, and her boyfriend, dissident journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich.
Forbrig slammed it as a "brazen attack on European civilian air traffic and safety".
He added: "The dictator senses that he has only muzzled public discontent and remains insecure of his grip on power.
"He has risked international escalation by hijacking a foreign plane to lay his hands on an outspoken critic.
"Clearly, this is meant to intimidate the many exiled Belarusian democrats who continue their fight from abroad.
"Protasevich’s abduction is to signal that they cannot feel safe wherever they reside in Europe."
Britain needs a long-term plan to tackle "criminal outrages by gangster regimes", a former military chief has said.
Speaking in Parliament, Lord Stirrup urged the UK to "counter such regimes and thwart their their malign purposes."
When did Lukashenko become Belarus president?
Belarus has an authoritarian government dominated by its current – and only – president, Alexander Lukashenko.
He has held a grip on power since first elected as leader in July 1994.
Why is Lukashenko's presidency disputed by the UK, EU and US?
Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory after the Belarus vote in August 2020, but the EU is adamant the election was rigged.
The US announced sanctions on eight officials it claimed had roles in the "fraudulent" election, writes BBC News.
The UK and Canada have already imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Lukashenko, his family and other top officials, the broadcaster adds.
A joint statement was issued by the missions of the US, the UK, Switzerland and the EU in 2020, following Lukashenko's controversial re-election.
It said: "We stand in solidarity with the people of Belarus who demand respect for fundamental freedoms and basic human rights through free and fair elections.
"Since the elections, we have witnessed the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the law enforcement authorities against peaceful protesters and ordinary citizens.
"We join the families of the victims in their sorrow.
"It is with grief and in disbelief that we have witnessed the loss of life, the suffering, and violations of human dignity and justice in Belarus."
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