Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko (as transliterated from Russian; also transliterated from Belarusian as Alyaksandr Ryhoravich Lukashenka; born 30 August 1954) is a Belarusian politician who has been the president of Belarus since the establishment of the office on 20 July 1994, making him the longest-sitting European president.
Before his political career, Lukashenko worked as director of a state farm (sovkhoz), and served in the Soviet Border Troops and in the Soviet Army.
Lukashenko continued state ownership of key industries in Belarus after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and retained important Soviet-era symbolism, which can be seen in the coat of arms and national flag of Belarus, adopted following a controversial 1995 referendum, which were based on those of the Byelorussian SSR. Following the same referendum, Lukashenko was given more power with the ability to dismiss the Supreme Soviet of Belarus and another referendum in 1996 allowed Lukashenko to further consolidate power. The Russian language was also given the same status as Belarusian, and economic ties with Russia were strengthened, which furthermore led to the creation of the Union State with Russia, which allows Belarusians to freely travel to, work, and study in Russia, and vice versa. However, relations with Russia have not always run smoothly under his tenure, such as during the Milk War.
Lukashenko heads an authoritarian government and has referred to himself as the "last dictator" in Europe. Elections are not considered to be free and fair by international monitors, opponents of the regime are repressed, and the media is not free, leading to sanctions on Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials being imposed. His disputed victory in the country's 2020 presidential election led to widespread allegations of vote rigging, which strongly amplified anti-government protests, the largest during his rule. Following the contested election, Lukashenko is not recognized by the United Kingdom, the European Union, or the United States as the legitimate president of Belarus.
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