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Europe’s last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

Frequently called Europe's last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko has sailed smoothly to victory in all six elections he's stood in, despite widespread corruption and fraud in each one. But in 2020 the biggest threat so far to Lukashenko's tight grip on government came in an unlikely package—a former schoolteacher and stay at home mom, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. After the election result was finalized, Lukashenko claimed victory, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, and Tsikhanouskaya leads the opposition in exile. Lukashenko recently took his boldest move yet, diverting a plane en route from Greece to Lithuania to arrest another Belarusian dissident. Ian Bremmer discusses whether a democratic transition is remotely possible in Belarus on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

Is there a path to democracy for Europe's last dictatorship, Belarus? Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya discusses her hopes and fears for the country with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. President Alexander Lukashenko has maintained a tight grip on power in Belarus for the last 26 years and rigged the results of his last election which led to widespread protest and unrest in his country, though few consequences globally. But will he now be held accountable after diverting a flight between two European capitals to arrest a dissident journalist? And just how close are he and Vladimir Putin?

Life under dictatorship in Belarus

What should you put in your bag before leaving home in Belarus nowadays if you openly criticize the government? Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya recommends packing an extra pair of pants and socks in case you get kidnapped or thrown in jail because under strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, you "feel that you don't have rights at all."

Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of an interview on the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which begins airing on US public television Friday, June 11. Check local listings.

Authoritarian Airlines

Co-captains Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin have an important pre-flight safety announcement.

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What We're Watching: Russia backs Belarus, Biden warns Ethiopian PM, Hong Kong approves Beijing's overhaul

Russia wades into EU-Belarus row: Now that the European Union and Belarus are at loggerheads over the brazen hijacking of an EU flight to arrest a dissident journalist, Vladimir Putin wants a piece of the action. In response to Brussels encouraging EU airplanes to avoid Belarusian skies, Russia says it will block those airlines from Russian airspace. It's unclear whether Putin is doing this to support his frenemy, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, or to sow division within the bloc after it approved unusually swift, albeit limited, sanctions against Belarus. Putin may be guessing that Brussels won't go much further because the EU is dependent on Russian oil and gas that transits through pipelines in Belarus. Either way, Putin's move will likely put more pressure on the EU to decide whether it doubles down on tougher sanctions against Lukashenko, or backs off a bit. And it demonstrates that Russia's leader, channeling his inner Rahm Emanuel, never lets a good crisis go to waste.

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What the EU will — and won’t — do about Belarus

The European Union on Monday agreed to sanction Belarus for having used a fighter jet and a bomb threat to ground a Vilnius-bound EU commercial airplane in order to arrest a dissident journalist. Along with the usual strongly-worded statements and in an unusually swift move, the bloc banned its sole airline from EU airspace and airports, and asked EU airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

Brussels also expanded current economic and travel sanctions against the regime led by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko. But tougher measures than that? Unlikely.

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EU likely to declare Belarus airspace unsafe, wider response to follow

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, discusses Belarus' diversion of a Ryanair flight and the European Union's response:

What is really happening with Belarus?

Well, what Lukashenko did yesterday was completely unacceptable. It was air piracy, state sponsored air piracy. And if this is allowed to stand, then no one can fly in the world. If dictators all over the world can pick aircraft out of the sky with a fighter or two in order to arrest people that they dislike, then the entire regime of commercial air transport in the world is gone.

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Flight diversion in Belarus is a criminal act

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer, here. Happy Monday to you. And yeah, I'm not in New York. I'm in Nantucket for a few days, working as usual, but I'm willing, I'm trying will summer into being. And the shirt, if nothing else, is annoying and distracting people and making me feel more summery.

But not so summery in Belarus, my goodness. The Belarusian president, illegitimate ostensibly reelected through fake elections, President Alexander Lukashenko. You remember all of the demonstrations against him, the support for the opposition movement in Europe and the United States. Not so much in Russia and President Putin and kind of petered out and police repression and he gets to still run the country, Mr. Lukashenko. And now, has engaged in what European leaders are calling state terrorism. Certainly, a hijacking, a level of piracy, with a Ryanair plane, that's an Ireland flagged carrier, going from Athens to Vilnius, two NATO allies, two European union members, through Belarusian airspace. And the Belarusians force the plane down to Minsk because a passenger on the plane is a Belarusian opposition journalist, and they have wanted him in jail. He's been a thorn for the Belarusian government and the president.

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