Aleksandr Lukashenko, Europe’s “last dictator,” remains an international pariah.
By World Israel News Staff
Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko insisted on Saturday that the whole world “bows” to the Jews because of the Holocaust. He was addressing an Independence Day memorial service for fallen soldiers in Minsk.
“Jews were able to make the world remember [the Holocaust], and the whole world bows to them, being afraid of saying one wrong word to them,” the Belarussian strongman declared. “On our part, we, being tolerant and kind, did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings and let the things down to the point when they have have started to hurt us.”
The Eastern European state has been isolated since May when a Ryanair flight was diverted to Minsk, where authorities arrested dissident journalist Roman Protasevich. The flight, from Athens to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, was diverted to Belarus following a false bomb threat. The 26-year-old Protasevich is now under house arrest.
Western sanctions on Belarus include travel bans and asset freezes of 166 people and 15 entities connected to Lukashenko’s regime. Western airlines won’t fly over Belarussian airspace, treating it as a no-fly zone.
Lukashenko has been president of Belarus since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1994 and is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator.” In 2020, he won an election widely considered rigged; 35,000 people were arrested in the subsequent anti-government protests.
On Saturday, before the speech, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sent Lukashenko Independence Day greetings that stressed Jewish ties to Belarus.
“Many representatives of the Jewish people have lived in Belarus for centuries, immigrated to the State of Israel and made valuable contributions to the education and development of the state. The community of natives of Belarus in Israel serves as a ‘living bridge’ that strengthens the relationship between our countries,” said Rivlin, according to the Belarussian president’s official web site.
Asked why Israel conveyed congratulations to Lukashenko, a government source told Haaretz, “Israel shows sensitivity to the well-being of the Jewish community in Belarus and therefore prefers not to confront the Lukashenko administration.”
Around 246,000 Belarussian Jews were killed during the Holocaust. A large wave immigrated to Israel in the late 1970s. An estimated 50,000 Jews still live there.