Ingo Petz at Eurozine:
Belarusian president Aliaksandr Lukashenka is not known for surprises that knock your socks off, so to speak. But “Daddy” (bat’ka), as Belarusians refer to their autocratic president, has rarely been seen so emotional. On 3 February 2017 Lukashenka held a press conference that lasted a record seven-and-a-half hours. This one-man show touched on many topics, which Lukashenka expounded on with much hot air and pathos, without giving concrete answers to the questions posed to him. There was one subject, however, on which the president, who has ruled the republic of Belarus since 1994 with a decided tendency towards autocracy, was very specific: Russia.
Relations with this powerful neighbour and its president, Vladimir Putin, have always held great significance for Lukashenka’s autocracy. But now they are worsening at a worrying pace. Lukashenka gave a monologue that topped 30 minutes, complaining about the overinflated gas and oil prices that Russia is demanding from him. He accused Russia of violating international agreements: on 1 February 2017, the neighbouring state had put up undeclared border checkpoints on the Belarusian-Russian border in the areas around Smolensk, Pskov and Briansk. Up to that point, no border controls had existed.