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Caught between the competing geopolitical interests of its neighbours, Belarus President Alexander Lukashanko has managed to position himself as a strategic buffer between Europe and Russia. EUobserver's Nikolaj Nielsen examines life - political, economic and cultural - under this autocrat.
Nikolaj Nielsen is a Danish-American journalist working for EUobserver in Brussels. He won a King Baudouin Foundation grant for investigative journalism in 2010.
'Belarus - Europe's last dictatorship' is the second in a series of investigative reports by EUobserver. The report sheds light on Europe's most isolated nation and EU policy towards it. It is published in two parts.
Lithuania and Poland handed over confidential bank details to Belarus that led to the arrest of human rights defender, Ales Bialistki.
Eighteen years and still in power, Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko retains a mesmerising hold on a country which glorifies Soviet-era rule.
A former officer in the 'Diamond' - Lukashenko's elite bodyguard - who lives in exile in the EU, says he "cannot remain indifferent" to the brutality of the regime.
Belarus' former leader - Stanislav Shushkevich - says Lukashenko is an "arse-kisser" whose power will wane if the EU imposes economic sanctions.
Underground culture is flourishing in the heart of Belarus despite regime attempts to establish control.
Even as Lukashenko becomes increasingly cruel and unusual, the EU capital is seeing an unprecedented amount of lobbying on his behalf.
The EU in March blacklisted 29 Belarusian companies, but the measures are a drop in the ocean in terms of Belarus-EU economic relations.
Belarus' future nuclear plant, situated just 50km from Vilnius, sits on a fault line which saw a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 1909.
Money from the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been distributed to individuals connected to Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko, according to a career politician in the regime.
Young people in Belarus who defy the regime are denied their education, jailed or punished by reprisals against their family. Many of them just want to leave.
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