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The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

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Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
Tens of thousands have rallied across Belarus in some of the country’s biggest opposition protests in a decade, amid mounting frustration over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, combined with grievances about the economy. Referring to Lukashenko, protestors chanted ‘stop the cockroach’ and held placards reading ‘change!’.
“For the first time in his 26-year rule, Lukashenko knows the majority don’t support him,” says Aleksandr Feduta, a former aide to the incumbent, who was i…

U.S. assures Russia no death penalty for Snowden

Eric Holder tells his Russian counter party Snowden would be tried in a civilian court.

Attorney General Eric Holder has appealed to Russia to extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowed by assuring Moscow that the U.S. would try him in a civilian court, would not seek the death penalty and would not torture him.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, again ruled out extradition for the 30-year-old former defense contractor, RT.com reports.

The promises came in a letter from Holder to his Russian counterpart, Justice Minister Vladimirovich Konovalov.

"The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional death penalty-eligible crimes," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Russian Minister of Justice Vladimirovich Konovalov.

In addition, Holder said that would be tried in a civilian court and "would not be tortured."

In the past, Russia has cited the prospect of capital punishment as a factor in its decision not to turn Snowden over to the U.S.

"We believe that these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr.Snowden's claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise," Holder wrote.

A copy of the letter was released by the Justice Department on Friday.

The letter came amid discussions about the Snowden case between FBI director Robert Mueller and FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov, RT.com reported..

Despite the flurry of activity, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said Friday that "Russia has never extradited anyone, and will not extradite," according to RT.com.

The spokesman also said he is certain that the former defense contractor, who has applied for asylum in Russia, will stop harming Washington with leaks or new revelations about the National Security Agency if allowed to stay in Russia

Peskov said that if Snowden, through his actions, should undermine Moscow's ties with Washington, "the head of state (Putin) has expressed strong determination not to allow this."

Snowden argued in his application for temporary asylum in Russia that he "he faces persecution by the U.S. government and he fears for his life and safety,"according to his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena. 


Source: USA Today, July 26, 2013

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