(b. Kopys, Vitebsk Oblast, Belorussian SSR, 30 Aug. 1954)
Belarusian; President 1994– Lukashenko graduated from the Belorussian Agricultural Academy in 1985 and then managed a collective farm. He was elected to the Belarusian parliament in 1990, and was noted for his pro-Soviet view, being the only Deputy to vote against ratification of the agreement dissolving the USSR and setting up the CIS. He opposed corruption and attacked the privileges of the Soviet élite. He became Belarus's first democratically elected president in 1994, promising clean government and greater integration between Russia and Belarus. His opposition to the privatization and market reform taking place in Russia led to suspension of World Bank lending to Belarus in 1995. Facing domestic opposition and calls for his impeachment, in 1996 Lukashenko called, and claimed success in, a referendum on extending his powers and his term of office from four to seven years. Lukashenko blamed foreign governments for the economic crisis facing Belarus in 1998, and he expelled ambassadors from US, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Japan in the face of international outcry. In 1999, Lukashenko and President Yeltsin of Russia signed a treaty agreeing cooperation between their two countries, while retaining their independence. Lukashenko claimed a landslide win in 2001 presidential elections but observers described the elections as ‘failing to meet international standards’ and, having changed the law to allow a third term, he was controversially re-elected in 2006. Western governments have referred to Belarus as ‘Europe's last dictatorship’ and, while Russia's President Putin found it useful to keep Belarus in Russia's orbit, Lukashenko has become an increasing liability.