Alexander Lukashenko


Who is he? President of Belarus, aged 42.

Where's that? In the former USSR, now the CIS. Shares a border with Poland. Heavily affected by fall out from the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, it has 18 SS-25 nuclear missiles, leftovers from the Soviet era.

Why's he in the news? Defying parliament, and the courts, he called for a referendum tomorrow which he hopes will increase his powers.

In return for? A Soviet style better future for Belarus.

But: Despite pressure from Moscow to treat the referendum as "consultative", he told a recent rally he was ready to "sacrifice everything on the altar of the people's victory" in tomorrow's vote.

His story: Was a political instructor in the Soviet army, an activist in youth organisation, then ran a state farm.

Started his rise to power in the anti corruption commission, winning presidency by a landslide in 1994.

What he like? Lean, angular and with a moustache, he's known as batska (father) by his mainly elderly supporters.

Often compared with Hitler and Mussolini, he has praised Hitler for his "strong rule".

Last year his forces shot down an air balloon taking part in an international race. Later congratulated the military for its "readiness".

Last word: Goes to Alexander: "I am not planning to share power with anybody. The people did not entrust me with power in order to do that."