The man, known as the “last dictator in Europe”, tore the strips off a reporter after a wave of appalling human rights allegations.
The man, dubbed “the last dictator in Europe”, was fired in a bizarre TV interview and refused to apologize after being accused of a number of human rights abuses.
In a CNN interview with journalist Matthew Chance, Belaus’ leader Alexander Lukashenko asked his questioner: “Do you think I’m crazy?”
Belarus, once part of the Soviet Union, is a country of 10 million people that lies between Poland and Russia. Lukashenko is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In May, the world was shocked when a low-cost airline Ryanair flying over Belarus was forced to land in the capital, Minsk, whereupon a government critic was arrested.
Ryanair boss Michale Leary criticized the move as “state sponsored kidnapping, state sponsored piracy”.
Human Rights Watch said inmates of the Belarusian president, who was under increasing pressure after a controversial presidential election in August 2020, reported broken bones, broken teeth and brain injuries.
While Lukashenko insists that he will surely win power in 2020, officials in the US, the EU and within the Belarusian opposition have continued to question his legitimacy.
An estimated 25,000 opponents of the 67-year-old president have been arrested since the election. According to the local human rights organization Viasna, on November 16 last year at least 1,000 people were arrested across Belarus in a single day as a result of mass demonstrations against the leader.
The death of a protester, 31-year-old Roman Bondarenko, has reinforced Lukashenko’s resignation after 26 years in power.
Fuehrer says “torture chambers” no worse than US, UK
According to his family, the ex-military man and painter was beaten during a protest in the Minsk police headquarters and succumbed to his injuries in hospital the next day.
Amnesty International has spoken out against detention centers in Belarus becoming “torture chambers” where protesters are reportedly being forced to lie in the dirt, strip naked and subject to various levels of police brutality.
When asked about alleged detention centers for political opponents, Lukashenko refused to accept that he was doing anything worse than in the UK or the US. He later dismissed the human rights organizations that were on his heels as “dubious”.
“We don’t have a single detention center, as you say, like Guantanamo or these bases that the United States and your country have created in Eastern Europe,” he told CNN’s Matthew Chance.
“So I think when you take that into account – you learn by comparing, hence my answer to your question – I think you are not going to look any better. As for our own prisons, where we are investigating the defendants or those against them, they are no worse than in Great Britain or the United States. I can guarantee you that. “
The Belarusian Union of Journalists claims that up to 23 journalists were arrested by the authorities while covering protest movements in Minsk and other cities in the country.
Former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya described Mr. Bondarenko as a hero killed “by accomplices of the regime” and urged Belarusians to continue to protest peacefully.
“He was an innocent victim of an inhuman system that views people’s lives as the cost of power,” Ms. Tikhanovskaya said on the telegram. “We all understand that any peaceful person could have ended up in his place.
“Like millions of Belarusians, I sympathize with Roman’s family. We will not forgive this murder. We will write the name Roman in the history of the new Belarus as the name of a hero. “
‘Do you think I’m crazy?’
Lukashenko is also under fire by the neighboring Polish government, which accuses him of forcing refugees to their border and, in some cases, of giving them amphetamines to keep them awake in cold weather.
Lukashenko, however, strongly denied claims that he “armed” migrants against countries critical of his rule. When asked whether his deportation of migrants was in retaliation for European sanctions, the 67-year-old spat at the US interviewer and constantly compared his country to the superpower abroad.
“This is insane,” he said. “Do you think I’m crazy?
“Can you prove that I decided to take revenge on the European Union? My country is in Central Europe and it’s a small one. Only 210,000 square kilometers? Nothing like the United States. Can 10 million people dictate terms to half a billion?
“Half a billion people live in the European Union. Am i crazy I don’t think you think I’m crazy or you wouldn’t have come here. So I won’t take revenge on anyone.
“Only weak people are interested in revenge and forgive my immodesty, but I don’t consider myself a weakling. And I do not believe that it is necessary to take revenge on the European Union. I’m not going to. Vengeance is more your country’s style, ”he said, referring to the fact that Mr. Change is from the UK.
“Why did you leave the European Union? Because you needed revenge, but I didn’t. “
The mood on the streets of the capital Minsk remains tense. While Lukashenko remains adamant that recent political unrest has not affected daily life, reports from the earth paint a different picture.
“This is Belarus,” one young man told CNN. “The police can arrest you and me.”
Putin has remained a strong supporter of Lukashenko over the past few months, with the northern superpower providing diplomatic and financial support.
Lukashenko, however, denies making great promises to Putin, despite the fact that he is now home to military bases, radar stations and a joint air combat training center within Belarusian borders.
“We are brotherly nations,” he said. “We come from the same origin, Russians and Belarusians. We are no different, inside and out. We have a common policy and common goals … We don’t need promises. “
Originally published when Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko denies allegations of human rights abuses in a tense TV interview