Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is (in)famous for his tongue-lashings and sweeping statements -- ranging from angry outbursts directed toward Belarusian athletes to his praise of Josef Stalin.
Famously referred to as “Europe’s last dictator” by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, Lukashenka’s name has now become synonymous with the title, to the extent that Lukashenka himself is now embracing it.
As he told Reuters in an interview published on November 27:
"I am the last and only dictator in Europe. Indeed, there are none anywhere else in the world."
UPDATE: Here's an excerpted video of the interview, including the "dictator" remarks:
The Belarusian strongman has not always been quite so comfortable in his own skin.
In March, after Guido Westerwelle, Germany's first openly gay minister, referred to Lukashenka as “Europe’s last dictator,” the Belarusian leader’s response was: “It's better to be a dictator than gay."
Not one to shy away from notoriety, Lukashenka now appears to be openly embracing bad publicity. As he told Reuters:
"You came here and looked at a living dictator. Where else would you see one? There is something in this. They say that even bad publicity is good publicity."
To those familiar with Lukashenka’s dramatic television appearances, including grand -- and quite lengthy -- press conferences, Reuters' description of the leader delivering his words with a “wry grin and a wave of his immense hands” while sitting in an “ornate chair in a luxurious room with green carpets and a chandelier in his cavernous presidential residence,” paints quite the image. (See a photo from the interview above.)
Lukashenka didn't keep his cool during the entire interview, however. While denouncing the West, Reuters said he became red with anger but then quickly moved on to a "history lesson":
"You do not like the fact that we have good relations with Russia. This is determined by our history. During the last war we fought together in the trenches against the Nazis. We saved you, Europe, from being slaves to your own fuehrer."
This is Lukashenka’s second interview with a high-profile international media organization in recent weeks. In an October 19 interview with Yevgeny Lebedev, the son of Russian tycoon Aleksandr Lebedev, for Britain's "The Independent," Lukashenka spoke of his grievances against democracy:
"I'm living through being democratized with a truncheon on the head by the West every day. Who needs that kind of democracy?"
From praising Stalin to embracing his inner dictator, the Belarusian leader -- who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994 -- certainly seems to be taking the "no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity" adage to heart.
-- Deana Kjuka