The crisis in neighbouring Ukraine has rattled Alexander Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime. But with the opposition in retreat and the media silenced, can Belarus escape his grip?

In the pantheon of great dictators, Lukashenko is a curiosity. The man known as ‘Batka’ (father of the nation) leads the country’s absurd TV news night after night, whether he is inspecting a tractor, ticking off the cabinet, arriving in Kazakhstan, or all three.

Before last month’s world championships of his beloved ice hockey – the biggest sporting event Belarus has ever held – the president was taking no chances. Concerned about possible shows of dissent, dozens of activists were rounded up and sent to jail.