From the Document: "Beginning in August 2020, popular unrest has posed a serious political challenge to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (or Lukashenka). In advance of an early August presidential election, opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Tsikhanouskaya) mounted an unexpectedly strong campaign to replace Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years. Given Lukashenko's authoritarian rule, observers did not expect Tikhanovskaya to win the election. However, the official pronouncement that Lukashenko won with a seemingly exaggerated 80% of the vote (to 10% for Tikhanovskaya) led to protests. A brutal and seemingly indiscriminate crackdown has led to larger protests and strikes of government workers on a scale unseen since Belarus became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Authorities have released most of the several thousand individuals they detained, but dozens reportedly remain in prison or are missing. [...] The United States, other countries, and international organizations have condemned violence against protestors and detainees and criticized the elections as neither free nor fair. The European Council, composed of the leaders of European Union (EU) member states, further stated that the EU does 'not recognize the results' of the election and would impose sanctions against those responsible for 'violence, repression and the falsification of election results.' Belarus's closest security and economic partner is Russia. Tensions between Belarus and Russia have increased in recent years, with the two countries at odds over energy, debt, trade, and transit."
CRS In Focus, IF10814
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/