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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, is set to pursue re-election 2024.

Belarusian President and close Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko has announced his intention to seek re-election next year, potentially extending his tenure to 36 years. The strongman, who has been in power since 1994, disclosed this decision on Sunday.

Lukashenko (L) was speaking on the day Belarus held parliamentary elections which have been decried as a sham by the opposition and the West. Pictured: the leader seaking to journalists at a polling station in Minsk, Belarus, on Sunday

His announcement coincided with parliamentary elections in Belarus, a country neighboring and allied with Russia, which have been condemned as fraudulent by both the opposition and Western nations.

“Tell them I will run in the (2025) election,” Lukashenko stated, as reported by a social media channel managed by his team.

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The election on Sunday marks the first nationwide vote since the contentious presidential election of 2020, which triggered widespread protests against Lukashenko, aged 69, amid widespread allegations of election manipulation to prolong his rule.

Belarusian President and close Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko (pictured on Sunday) has said he will seek re-election next year, which could see him extend his rule to 36 years

The president has orchestrated a significant crackdown on dissent, resulting in the imprisonment of hundreds of opponents and the forced exile of thousands.

Sunday’s parliamentary elections lack genuine opposition candidates, with Lukashenko’s critics urging Belarusians to boycott the vote.

Lukashenko has cautioned that the authorities have “learned their lesson” from the 2020 protests and anticipates no uprisings during Sunday’s election.

In a series of raids last month, Belarus’s powerful KGB security service targeted the families of political prisoners, as reported by rights groups.

Currently, leading human rights group Viasna estimates there are 1,419 political detainees in Belarusian jails.

Exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who sought refuge in neighboring Lithuania in 2020, took to social media to denounce Sunday’s elections.

In a video message, Tikhanovskaya asserted, “Let’s be clear: the regime’s attempt to use these fake elections to legitimize its power will not succeed.” She emphasized that the people of Belarus see through this facade and called on the international community not to recognize the election’s outcome.

The United States also criticized the vote, labeling it as “sham parliamentary elections.” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller expressed concern, stating, “It’s impossible to hold free and fair elections in a climate of fear and with 1400+ political prisoners. We support the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people.”

Since permitting Russia to utilize Belarusian territory for its Ukraine offensive two years ago, Lukashenko has further isolated his country. The Minsk regime heavily relies on Moscow for both political and economic backing. Lukashenko reaffirmed this alliance on Sunday, stating, “We will always be together with Russia.”

News of Lukashenko’s announcement follows his hospitalization in Moscow in May due to a serious illness. Although his office initially declined to comment, speculation arose after he was observed struggling to speak and was seen with a bandaged arm the week before disappearing from the public eye on May 9.

Belarus, situated in eastern Europe, shares borders with three NATO members in addition to Ukraine and Russia.

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