Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus faces threats from all sides as the country decides whether to give him a sixth term as president
Alexander Lukashenko is under pressure like never before. The past week has brought astonishing scenes in Belarus: an opposition rally hailed as the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union; the arrest of 33 Russian mercenaries allegedly sent to destabilise the country; and an admission from Lukashenko that after months of minimising the coronavirus epidemic, he had tested positive for the virus.
It is likely that the president, who has held power for 25 years, will claim victory in the 9 August elections and remain the country’s leader. But he is on the defensive, facing an energised opposition amid bitter spats with Russia over economic integration, and with the west over human rights. It is the most precarious moment of his career.