Australian Women’s Weekly NZ

TO BELARUS with LOVE

Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet empire, there remains an enclave of Europe where almost nothing has changed. Peasants toil on collective farms, rusty factories churn out state-decreed quotas of shoddy goods, and an ageing dictator clings to power, supported by a corps of slab-chopped cronies from central casting.

Belarus, a landlocked expanse of flatlands between Russia and Poland, has clung to the old ways largely by avoiding what its strong-man leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, sees as three main threats: interference from within, interference from outside and interference from women.

“It would be ridiculous for our society to vote for a woman,” scoffed Lukashenko, 66, on the eve of August’s controversial presidential election. “If one won, she would quickly collapse, poor thing.”

Bristling with machismo, Lukashenko, a muscle-bound former Red Army officer and fitness fanatic who has run Belarus for 26 years, spent most of the campaign locking up likely opponents, and filling the state airwaves with testimonies to his kindness and wisdom. In a troubled world, went his message, only his homegrown brand of tough love could keep the country safe. Posing along the campaign trail with an automatic assault rifle, he claimed coronavirus

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